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Bayer, LifeLabs Launch Free NTRK Genetic Testing Program in Canada

NEW YORK – Bayer and Canadian diagnostics firm LifeLabs said on Wednesday that they have launched a program to offer free genetic testing to identify rare NTRK gene fusions in cancer patients in Canada who may be eligible for targeted treatment.

NTRK fusions occur in less than 1 percent of solid tumors. In 2019, Health Canada approved larotrectinib (Bayer's Vitrakvi) for adults and pediatric patients with refractory solid tumors who have NTRK fusions and are out of treatment options. This was the first time regulators in Canada approved a tissue-agnostic indication for a drug.

Now, Bayer has partnered with LifeLabs to launch the FastTRK program, within which the drugmaker will cover the full cost of genetic testing regardless of patients' insurance status, test results, or treatment decisions until at least the end of 2021. The program may identify patients with NTRK fusions who may be eligible to receive larotrectinib.

Patients with metastatic solid tumors who are ineligible for surgical resection and who are otherwise out of treatment options meet the criteria for testing within the FastTRK program. Oncologists should test patients with tumor types that are more likely to harbor NTRK fusions, the companies said in a statement announcing the program.  

"As new treatment options are approved to help cancer patients in Canada, in this new era of precision medicine, testing partnerships such as FastTRK are critical bridges to help clinicians identify which of their patients are candidates for specific targeted therapies," Shurjeel Choudhri, senior VP and head, medical & scientific affairs at Bayer, said in a statement.