COVID-19 has delayed at least 100,000 surgeries in Canada, including up to 30 percent of cancer-related surgeries such as tissue biopsies. Currently, surgery backlogs are estimated to be 1-2 years across the country.
Circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) testing has been found to be an effective alternative to some surgical tissue biopsies to guide cancer targeted treatment, which can improve patient outcomes two- to three-fold.
Vancouver’s Canexia Health today announced critical progress milestones as well as new partnerships for Project ACTT (Access to Cancer Testing & Treatment in Response to COVID-19).
With a strategic investment from Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster, Project ACTT is speeding up cancer testing for targeted treatment selection during the pandemic through a minimally invasive circulating tumor (ctDNA) DNA test, which is available as an alternative to some surgical tissue biopsies for patients with advanced lung, breast, or colorectal cancer.
The program has expanded across Canada with samples received from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. More than 800 Canadian cancer patients have received testing since Project ACTT launched in July 2020.
“ctDNA testing offers a comprehensive, equitable, and sustainable approach to help ensure uninterrupted care for cancer patients,” said Daniel Hebert, VP, Medical Affairs, Oncology, Novartis Pharmaceuticals. “As we enter a second wave of the pandemic, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on disease diagnosis and access to treatments for cancer patients. Continued support for cancer biomarker testing is critical as this helps patients access cancer treatment with less risk while helping offset hospital resources that are otherwise focused on COVID-19.”
In addition to reaching patients during the pandemic, Project ACTT is generating health economics data to accelerate Canadian provincial health coverage for ctDNA testing for cancer treatment selection over the long-term.
“We believe the health economic data generated by Project ACTT will help establish cancer testing and infrastructure responsive to the needs of tens of thousands of cancer patients and thousands of researchers each year regardless of future pandemics,” said Cynthia Di Lullo, Canada Oncology Lead at Pfizer. “This can only be accomplished by securing reimbursement for testing, and we are pleased to help support these efforts.”
“Through Project ACTT, we are working to demonstrate the value of ctDNA testing at the local level, to future proof against future crises and offer an alternative that is available to patients no matter where they live,” said Michael Ball, Canexia Health’s CEO. “It is critical that cancer patients have equitable access to safe, affordable and local/remote cancer testing to protect their health over the long-term. We look forward to continuing this work with collaborators and consortium members to make cancer testing and treatment accessible to all cancer patients.”