A few weeks ago, we posted a video in which professor Nazneen Rahman explained how mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes lead to cancer. In the following two videos, she describes how new technology makes it easier to test whether someone has a genetic mutation, and how our new streamlined pathway makes it easier to get access to gene testing. (See all videos together on YouTube).
Why is gene testing easier now?
On the one hand, gene testing is very easy, because all we need is a blood sample. On the other hand, gene testing is very difficult, because it’s like looking for one spelling mistake in a really long novel. It used to be really slow and really expensive to do gene testing, because we had to read through the whole gene, letter by letter, word by word.
But now we have new machines, that can cut up the gene into segments and read them all at the same time. And that means that gene testing is now really fast, and much, much cheaper.
How can we make gene testing easier for cancer patients?
We’re working very hard to try to make gene testing available to all cancer patients. The new machines make the gene testing very quick and affordable, but there was a second problem. Traditionally, it has been hard for cancer patients to access gene testing. They had to go to a special gene testing service, often in a different hospital, that was another appointment. They’d have the appointment for the test, then go back for the result, and then finally they’d get back to their cancer clinic. This all took months.
What we have done is to streamline the process, so that women can give a blood test at one of their existing cancer clinic appointments. So we brought the test to the patient, rather than the patient having to chase around to find the test. This is much easier for patients, and also for the cancer team.