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Global News – B.C. company providing free genomics cancer test to 2,000 Canadians

February 05, 2015 – Contextual Genomics

By Justin McElroy
Web Producer, Global News

WATCH: A new test aims to change the way we treat cancer in Canada. Elaine Yong reports

A B.C. company is hopeful a new test they’ve developed for cancer will lead to advanced treatment being more affordable and available for all Canadians.

Over the next year, Contextual Genomics will be testing 2,000 Canadians who have been diagnosed with cancer. They’ll be able to check for 90 different genetic mutations in their tumours with just one test.


Stephen Scherer, director of the Centre for Applied Genomics, Hospital for Sick Children, is pictured in a handout photo. A Canadian-led international research team has identified several new genetic mutations that appear to be linked to autism spectrum disorder, using a method that looks at the entire DNA code of affected individuals. Scientists find more genes possibly linked to autism with advanced sequencing tool, “We believe we’ll be able to have a major impact in the way cancer care is delivered and clinical trials are run,” says David Huntsman, Chief Medical Officer for Contextual Genomics, who says the test will be given to a patient’s treatment team free of charge.

Gene testing of cancerous tumours is available today, but each test to determine the specific type of treatment needed can cost upwards of $5,000. It’s hoped the new test will give oncologists a much greater chance of identifying proper treatment quickly.

“What we’re trying to do is make it so you really have to do one test,” said CEO Chris Wagner to GenomeWeb last year. “We’re trying to make this test the same price as a single test…and make it reimbursable.”

People can inquire about being part of Contextual Genomics test by asking their oncologists, wherever they live.

“Right now where you live determines the quality of the testing you get. That’s immoral,” says Huntsman.

“We know the Canadian health system is provincially-led, but inherently all Canadians should have access to the same high quality of care.”