A year of increasing access to gene testing for women with ovarian cancer

A year of increasing access to gene testing for women with ovarian cancer

Today is World Ovarian Cancer Day (WOCD). A year ago today, I wrote about the role of gene mutations in ovarian cancer, the importance that women with ovarian cancer are able to access gene tests and what we have been doing to tackle this important issue.  You can read that blog post here.

One year on, we have made significant progress, but there is still much work to be done.

I lead a programme, called Mainstreaming Cancer Genetics (MCG), which aims to make gene testing a routine part of cancer patient care.

Our programme has developed a ‘mainstream’ model of gene testing that brings gene tests directly to the patient through routine oncology appointments. It’s cheaper, faster and more patient-centred than traditional models of gene testing.

This time last year, 125 women with ovarian cancer had benefitted from BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene testing through the programme’s ‘mainstream’ model of gene testing.

One year later, 300 women with ovarian cancer have now benefited at the Royal Marsden Hospital.

A survey of some of these women found that:

  • 99% (104/105) were pleased they had the genetic test
  • 97% (102/105) were happy to have testing through oncology

For many of these women, the result of their BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene test had a direct impact on their immediate cancer management. The results of gene tests can provide information that helps doctors provide the best possible management for the patient. This could mean choosing the most appropriate surgery, optimised screening, or selecting the best drugs to use.

Importantly, the benefits of providing mainstream testing for women with ovarian cancer are now far more widely recognised:

  • In the UK a number of NHS gene testing services are implementing their own mainstream gene testing models, with some utilising the resources developed by the programme, which are freely available on our website.
  • An international study has been initiated by AstraZeneca, which is trialling the mainstream model developed by the MCG programme in the United States, Spain and Italy.

Access to gene testing for women with ovarian cancer has made significant progress In the UK and overseas since WOCD last year, but much more still needs to be done to ensure that more people can benefit, and that all women with ovarian cancer have access to BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene testing.