Whole-population genetic testing to improve prevention of breast and ovarian cancers

New research shows genetic testing for all women could prevent 64,500 more breast cancers, 17,500 more ovarian cancers and save 12,300 more lives.

Testing all women for breast and ovarian cancer gene mutations could prevent thousands of cases and save lives, new research led by Queen Mary University of London indicates.

Findings of the study, to be published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, carried out by experts from Barts Health NHS Trust, Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary, supported by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, suggest that the ‘most cost-effective’ approach was offering testing for the entire population, looking at the impact of screening 27 million women over 30 in the UK.

They said it would prevent 64,500 more breast cancers, 17,500 more ovarian cancers and save 12,300 more lives.

Dr Ranjit Manchanda, Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist at the trust, said developments in genomic medicine could support the system in delivering a ‘new population-based predictive, preventive and personalised medicine strategy for cancer prevention’.

“The impact that this study could have on healthcare in the future for these cancers is promising and an exciting step forward in prevention,” added Athena Lamnisos, CEO of gynaecological cancer research charity The Eve Appeal, which funded the research.

“This approach can have important implications given the effective options that are available for ovarian and breast cancer risk management and prevention for women at increased risk,” said London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Dr Rosa Legood.

In a report published last summer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, called for DNA tests to become a ‘routine’ part of the NHS:

“Genomics is not tomorrow. It’s here today. I believe genomic services should be available to more patients, whilst being a cost-effective service in the NHS.

“Through the establishment
 of Genomics England and the 100,000 Genomes Project, we are ahead of the game in transforming our NHS by integrating genomics into the health service in a way other countries dream of,” Prof Dame Sally Davies said.

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