Thermo Fisher, Pfizer team up on global access to cancer DNA testing

Genomic sequencing can help match cancer patients to the most effective treatments based on their specific genetic makeup—but only if they have access to the necessary testing resources.

Hoping to improve that currently limited access in dozens of countries around the world are Thermo Fisher Scientific and Pfizer, which have joined forces to expand the global reach of next-generation sequencing technologies.

They’ll do so by bringing rapid genomic screening to “an increased number of decentralized labs, closer to where patients are treated,” Gianluca Pettiti, an executive VP at Thermo Fisher, said in Tuesday’s announcement about the collaboration.

It will initially focus on improving access to DNA testing for lung and breast cancer patients in more than 30 countries, spanning Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Over time, however, the companies said they’ll “evaluate opportunities” to extend their work into other countries and other forms of cancer.

The partnership tasks Thermo Fisher with looking for those local labs that could become next-generation sequencing hubs in currently underserved areas. The medtech giant will ensure each lab has the needed technology and associated infrastructure, as well as appropriately trained staff and certain quality control measures in place.

Meanwhile, Pfizer will be looking for ways to make the DNA tests more affordable for patients, while also educating local healthcare providers about the benefits of genomic screening for cancer treatment matching.

“The more we understand the complex science behind cancer, the better we can treat it. Our experience has taught us that cancer cannot always be treated with a broad brush and often requires an individualized approach based on precise disease characteristics,” said Nick Lagunowich, global president of emerging markets at Pfizer.

“In many parts of the world, access to next-generation sequencing may be limited or unaffordable for cancer patients,” Lagunowich continued. “This program aims to improve their treatment journey and help increase their chances for improved outcomes.”

As next-generation sequencing has been increasingly cemented as a gold-standard option for selecting cancer treatments, so too have the issues of access and affordability come to the forefront.

Sequencing technology is now faster and smarter than ever, and the race is on to drive down its costs, too. Only a few years after the long-awaited “$1,000 genome” was finally achieved, whole-genome sequencing is now available at a fraction of that price—led by the $100 genome introduced by Ultima Genomics last year.