Tempus ties up Eli Lilly collab to bring free genomic testing to lung cancer patients

Tempus fugit, but the Chicago medtech of the same name is aiming to stop the clock on cancer with its genomic sequencing tests.

Genomic testing can help detect molecular biomarkers in a tumor or the bloodstream that could determine the best treatment route for an individual cancer patient. The method isn’t yet the go-to for many healthcare providers, however, because of the specialized technology required to sequence a genetic sample and the typically high price tag attached to the tests.

That’s where Tempus comes in. The company has enlisted Eli Lilly to sponsor an initiative to provide its genomic sequencing assays to patients with advanced and metastatic non-small cell lung cancer at no cost.

The partners didn’t disclose what the cost of the program will be, but noted that neither patients nor their insurance providers will be billed at all for the testing services. Outside of the program, Tempus’ genomic tests for cancer patients are typically covered by insurance, with the company capping out-of-pocket costs at $100 for patients who are either uninsured or not fully covered.

The program is initially focusing on non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) because, according to a study cited by Tempus, nearly half of patients with advanced forms of the disease have a biomarker that could potentially help guide their treatment but that can’t be fully detected by standard single-analyte testing.

Patients in the U.S. with advanced or metastatic NSCLC who have not previously undergone extensive molecular biomarker testing are eligible to apply to the program. If selected to participate, they’ll submit samples of their tumor tissue and blood to be analyzed by the Tempus xT test, which looks for mutations in nearly 650 genes.

If a tumor sample isn’t available or can’t successfully be sequenced, Tempus will run the blood sample on its xF liquid biopsy test, which detects bits of DNA in the bloodstream to examine 105 genes.

Physicians can also choose to order one of Tempus’ immunohistochemistry assays that looks for PD-L1 in a tissue sample. The protein attaches itself to cancer cells to block cancer-killing T cells from doing just that; the PD-L1 mechanism can be stopped by certain immunotherapy drugs.

Results from the xT test will be available to patients and physicians through Tempus’ online portal within two weeks of sample receipt, while the PD-L1 results will be returned in just two or three days.

“This collaboration aims to provide eligible NSCLC patients access to our genomic tests, to help reduce disparities in biomarker testing and assist physicians in making data-driven treatment decisions,” said Mike Yasiejko, Tempus’ executive VP of oncology. “We look forward to working with Lilly in supporting physicians in identifying the optimal therapeutic path for each of their patients.”