One thousand cancer patients have had mainstream genetic testing

We first started a pilot to offer gene testing to cancer patients at a cancer clinic appointment in 2013. We are now delighted that the 1000th patient has had BRCA gene testing through this mainstream genetic testing process. Mainstream testing is now fully integrated into routine NHS case at the Royal Marsden hospital.

Historically, cancer patients could only access gene testing if they were first referred to a genetics clinic. The referral criteria were complex and waiting lists for genetic appointments were long. Many cancer patients did not get testing, even if they were eligible for it.


Faster testing for more patients

By using new DNA sequencing technology and offering testing through cancer clinic appointments, we were able to greatly increase the number of patients that can benefit from testing, without increasing costs. The Royal Marsden now offers tests to three times as many patients a year, and is able to return test results within 4 weeks compared to 20 weeks in the old system.

Besides informing the best treatment options, test results also provide information about whether hereditary causes of cancer are relevant for a patient’s family members. All women found to have a BRCA mutation have an appointment with the genetics team who coordinate providing information to relatives.

Many relatives choose to have a test to see if they have inherited the mutation. This allows them to make more informed choices and gives opportunities to reduce cancers in women found to be at high risk.


What clinicians are saying

 “Having the BRCA test result is very helpful when discussing the surgical options with breast cancer patients. Some women with a BRCA mutation choose to have bilateral mastectomy because their risk of getting a new cancer in either breast is increased. It has been great to be able to quickly and directly arrange for testing at the cancer clinic”

-Fiona MacNeil, Consultant Surgeon at the Royal Marsden and President of the Association of Breast Surgery.

“Having quick, direct access to BRCA testing has allowed us to provide women with more personalised management and more options of clinical trials for newer therapies”.

– Nick Turner, Consultant Oncologist at the Royal Marsden


What patients are saying

 “I was very pleased to be offered the BRCA test by the cancer clinic. It was quick and simple, I just gave a blood test and a few weeks later I got the result. It has helped me make decisions and I have been advocating the test to others.”

– A breast cancer patient at the Royal Marsden.


What’s next for the MCG?

Over the last year many other centres across the UK and the globe have started to implement mainstream gene testing for the BRCA genes. In 2017 we are starting MCG-International (MCG-I) which aims to facilitate adoption and the sharing of experience and good practice in mainstreaming.

We will provide more information on the new MCG-I section of our website, and in future blogs.


For more information on the MCG and our 1000th patient milestone, see our press release