Genomics is becoming an increasingly important aspect of cancer prediction, diagnosis, and treatment. So what is genomics, and what can it do to help cancer patients?
Genomics is the study and “mapping” of genomes. Researchers study DNA to find out what each section of the code – each gene – is responsible for, and how all the genes work together. You can use genomics techniques to predict how well a person will respond to a treatment or find one that will work best for them. This is called personalised medicine. You can also use genomics to test how well a cancer might respond to radiotherapy. For some patients, that can mean far fewer radiotherapy sessions.
The potential of genomics is huge, leading to more precise diagnostics for earlier diagnosis, new medical devices, faster clinical trials, new drugs and treatments and potentially, in time, new cures. This is why the Department of Health is starting to draw a map of thousands of genomes from NHS patients in the 100,000 Genome Project. The aim is to create a new genomic medicine service for the NHS, transforming the way people are cared for.
While whole genome sequencing holds great potential, it is not without risk. Whole genome sequencing can reveal mutations that indicate susceptibility to other, unrelated genetic conditions, and lead to difficult decisions about changes to lifestyle, medical treatment, and what to tell family members. We think it is important to explore the societal, ethical and practical implications of cancer genomics, and make sure that the patient voice is heard. This is what we intend to do in our project, My Cancer, My DNA.
During the project, we will be tackling issues such as:
- Would you want to know if you had an inherited risk of developing a genetic condition?
- Who should tell your family if you have an inherited risk of a cancer that they might also share?
- How should your data be used after undergoing genome sequencing?
By taking part in our project, and responding to questions like these, you can help represent cancer patients to those with the power to make changes to how we implement new tools in cancer care.
As a project participant, we’ll ask for around 45 minutes of your time once a week, over six weeks. You’ll be asked to complete a series of online activities, which can be done anywhere and anytime you like, as long as you have access to the internet. The activities are designed to be interesting and engaging, but most importantly, to give you the chance to be heard.
How can I get involved in the My Cancer, My DNA project?
You can read our flyer to find out more about what is involved as a project participant, and register your interest using this form. You can also contact us by phone with any questions, on 02077043141, or email our Public Engagement and Project Officer, Angela.
My Cancer, My DNA is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and The Institute of Cancer Research.