Gene testing for women with ovarian cancer

Today is World Ovarian Cancer Day (WOCD). WOCD began in 2013 to unite ovarian cancer organisations from around the world to educate their communities about ovarian cancer.

Improving access to gene testing for all women affected with ovarian cancer is a key focus of the Mainstreaming Cancer Genetics (MCG) programme, which aims to make genetic testing part of routine cancer patient care.

In order to help achieve this, the programme has developed a flexible, patient-centred model for gene testing, which is faster and less costly than traditional models. The ‘mainstream’ gene testing model brings the test directly to the patient through routine oncology appointments, allowing more people with cancer, and their families, to benefit.

Approximately 15% of ovarian cancers are due to a mutation in the cancer predisposition genes BRCA1 or BRCA2. Knowing whether or not a person has a mutation provides vital information about the cause of cancer, risks of developing future cancers and can aid decisions about the best treatments and drugs to use. It also provides important information about risks to relatives.

The ‘mainstream’ model of gene testing has been in operation at the Royal Marsden since July 2013, and over 125 women with ovarian cancer have now benefitted from BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene testing.

Every woman who was offered a BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene test accepted it, and when surveyed all were pleased they had the gene test. 98% of those surveyed said they were happy to have the gene test at one of their existing oncology appointments.

Plans are now underway to roll out the ‘mainstream’ model of gene testing to other NHS centres so many more women with ovarian cancer can benefit.