What is the Mainstreaming Cancer Genetics Programme?

The goal of this programme is to make genetic testing part of routine cancer patient care.

Knowledge of a person’s genetic make-up can be vitally helpful when treating cancer. Genetic tests can provide information about the cause of the cancer and can aid decisions about the best treatments and drugs to use.

Unfortunately, cancer genetic testing in the UK is currently very restricted. The aim of the Mainstreaming Cancer Genetics programme is to use new technologies to develop a single test that can analyse all genetic information relevant to cancer, much faster and cheaper, than current methods.

We will also develop the required clinical infrastructure so more patients can have genetic testing. We will undertake education and communication, so the benefits and implications of genetic testing in cancer patients are better recognised.

The programme will directly lead to many more cancer patients being able to benefit from genetic testing. It will lay the foundations so every cancer patient can have access to genetic testing.

The programme is being led by the Institute of Cancer Research in partnership with the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and is funded by the Wellcome Trust. The programme will run for three years from 2013-2016.

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‘How Gene Testing Can Help People With Cancer’ – A Consultation with UK Cancer Charities

Engaging with clinicians, patients and the public to enhance understanding of the benefits, availability and implications of genetic testing for people with cancer is a key aim of the Mainstreaming Cancer Genetics (MCG) programme.

Towards this aim, the MCG programme held a consultation event for representatives from any UK cancer charity on Friday 14th February at the Royal Marsden Education & Conference Centre. The aim of the event was to inform cancer charities and other organisations of the work being carried out on the MCG programme, and to learn about how gene testing affects these organisations and the people they represent.

The event was attended by a wide range of representatives including those from breast, ovarian, colorectal, prostate, blood, bone and brain cancer charities. Also in attendance were representatives from patient support and advisory services, policy makers and practising clinicians.

When surveyed, 100% of attendees agreed that gene testing can provide important information for the management of cancer. In addition 94% believed there is increasing interest from patients to have gene testing.

Strikingly, 100% of those attending thought that cancer patients should have access to gene testing, and 97% believed that the NHS should adapt to gain maximum benefit of genetic information for its patients.

Initially, only 12% felt confident that the NHS will adapt to gain maximum benefit of genetic information for its patients, highlighting the importance of the MCG programme. However, at the end of the event, there was strong consensus that cancer charities and related organisations have a key role to play, with 82% stating that they believe their organisation can help to improve access to gene testing.

The event included talks from Professor Nazneen Rahman, Head of Genetics at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the Cancer Genetics Clinical Unit at The Royal Marsden, Alastair Kent, Director, Genetic Alliance UK and Dr Susana Banerjee, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden.

The event was held in partnership between the MCG programme (www.mcgprogramme.com) and Genetic Alliance UK (www.geneticalliance.org.uk) and forms part of the programme’s Education and Engagement workstream.

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