TRENTON, N.J. – The most tragic element of one Ridgewood resident’s battle with colon cancer was that a simple blood test could have saved her life before receiving chemotherapy treatment.
Now, Assemblyman Christopher DePhillips introduced legislation (A5194) Monday requiring doctors to provide testing before patients undergo treatment.
Kerrie Prettitore, a 42-year old mother of three, underwent a successful operation in 2014, to remove colon cancer and began routine chemotherapy. But after just one treatment, her condition quickly became life-threatening.
A test performed several weeks later revealed she had an enzyme deficiency that prevented her body from breaking down one of the chemotherapy drugs. She fought for her life with the support of her family and friends, but tragically passed away from a multitude of life-threatening medical complications last July.
“Had Kerrie been tested prior to her chemotherapy, she could have been given a different drug and her life would have been saved,” said DePhillips (R-Bergen). “This bill will require insurance companies in New Jersey to cover the expenses incurred in conducting one test for the deficiency every year.”
People with the deficiency may show no symptoms, but will have a severe, toxic reaction to certain drugs used in chemotherapy.
Roughly 4 to 8 percent of the population has a form of DPD deficiency which puts them at high risk of severe toxic reactions to some chemotherapy drugs. Testing for the deficiency is not mandatory in the United States or New Jersey.
In New York, a similar bill passed the Senate in 2017 that would require DPD deficiency testing prior to certain treatments. It would require insurance carriers and medical assistance programs to include testing coverage.