World Ovarian Cancer Day (WOCD) 2015: Increasing access to gene testing for women with ovarian cancer

Today is the third official 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.

On this day last year, we posted a news item describing why improving access to gene testing for all women affected with ovarian cancer was a key focus of the Mainstreaming Cancer Genetics (MCG) programme. You can read that post here.

Significant progress has been made in the last 12 months.

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, where testing is carried out through existing oncology appointments, rather than separate appointments with genetics teams. This is faster, cheaper and more patient-centred.

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.