Cancer treatments in BC might be revolutionized thanks to genetic testing

Sep 7 2016, 7:24 pm

New genetic testing might revolutionize the way cancer is detected and treated in BC.

BC’s Provincial Health Services Authority says the two tests called the OncoPanel and Myeloid Panel will offer a more personalized approach to cancer treatments, as it can detect multiple mutations in several genes that are associated with solid or blood-based cancers.

“Really what it does is it provides patients with an opportunity to have a much wider scan of their tumour in terms of genetic changes,” medical director of the cancer genetics lab at the BC Cancer Agency Aly Karsan told Daily Hive. “And the result of that is that it may provide further information about what types of therapies might work best for their type of cancer.”

The OncoPanel testing is now available to patients with advanced lung cancer, colorectal cancer, melanoma, gastrointestinal stromal tumours, or low grade gliomas. The Myeloid Panel is for patients with acute myeloid leukemia, myeloproliferative neoplasms, and myelodysplastic syndromes.

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Karsan says both tests look at 36 or 43 different genes to detect differences in sequences of the tumour DNA – those differences indicate to doctors whether a specific drug will be effective in treating the patient’s cancer.

He says some of these drugs are traditionally used in cancer treatments, while others are still in clinical trials.

“Having this information allows the patient to enrol in a clinical trial if they have another change somewhere else,” he says, adding these tests will have a major impact on the way we treat cancer in the province.

“As we expand the number of genes we look at, hopefully it will give us information about the potential use of novel drugs – things that weren’t considered previously for tumours that will allow choices to be made that are outside of what our current realm of knowledge is.”

That, Karsan says, will likely take years of patient tests.

More than 2,600 cancer patients in the province will be eligible for the genetic tests that will also aid in diagnosing uncommon genetic mutations in their cancer.