Free cancer tumour genetic screening? That's the unusual offer from Contextual Genomics, a private company in Vancouver.This is progress. Why attempt to make an issue of a private company providing a new test? Most of Canadian health care is delivered by private companies anyways.
Starting this month, the first 1,500 Canadians who get their oncologists to send in their tumour samples will have their cancer tested using the the company's trademarked Find-It Cancer Hotspot Panel at no charge. After that, the test will be offered for sale for less than $1,000.
"You could call it marketing, but it's making this test available to people who haven't had access to it before," said Contextual Genomics CEO Chris Wagner. The idea is that there might be a drug out there that can target the particular cancer mutation. But that's if a drug exists, and if it's approved for use, and if the oncologist knows what to do.
That said, the Contextual Genomics is making an excellent strategic decision to offer their test for free. I'm actually surprised that they're limiting it to 1,500 people; the marginal cost of running these tests can be pretty low, especially for those testing highly specific mutations. I'm not so sure about the full cost of delivery, though.
After this phase of their National Access Program, my guess is that they'll eventually offer some kind of compassionate access program for those that can't pay ~$1,000 out of pocket.