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New genetic tests become standard of cancer care in BC

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VANCOUVER — New multi-gene analysis panels are now available to oncologists and haematologists across British Columbia as provincial diagnostic tools, meaning a more personalized approach to treatment for thousands of eligible cancer patients.

The OncoPanel and Myeloid Panel are clinical tests that can detect multiple different mutations in several genes simultaneously associated with solid or blood-based cancers, respectively. These are the first gene panels to be available province-wide and as part of standard cancer care in Canada for acquired cancers. Tests of this kind are only available at the top few cancer care institutions in the world.

Newly diagnosed patients with advanced lung cancer, colorectal cancer, melanoma, gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST) or low grade gliomas are eligible for OncoPanel testing. Newly diagnosed patients with acute myeloid leukemia, myeloproliferative neoplasms and myelodysplastic syndromes are eligible for the Myeloid Panel. 

The process for an eligible patient is straightforward. In the case of a solid tumor, a biopsy is performed and Lower Mainland Labs laboratory technologists at the BC Cancer Agency process it and prepare its DNA for the OncoPanel. During analysis, multiple single gene sequencing tests are integrated onto a single Next-Generation sequencing panel significantly reducing the time for diagnosis, compared with the previous approach of analyzing each candidate gene individually. In just two to three weeks, the patient's oncologist receives a report that helps them zero in on the best treatment plan for the patient. 

With significant support from the BC Cancer Foundation and Genome BC, the panels were developed by clinicians and scientists at the BC Cancer Agency and Lower Mainland Labs — a Lower Mainland consolidated service under the Provincial Health Services Authority. 

Quick Facts:

  • Over 2,000 BC cancer patients will be eligible for the OncoPanel annually.
  • Over 600 BC cancer patients will be eligible for the Myeloid Panel annually.
  • More than 600 patients and 79 oncologists and haematologists were involved in validating the panels in two clinical trials.
  • The gene mutations on each panel were chosen by clinicians and scientists using cutting-edge research, including information provided from the BC Cancer Agency's world-leading Personalized Onco-Genomics program.
  • The gene mutations currently included on the panels are selected because they are the most clinically relevant for known publicly funded treatment plans or ongoing clinical trials.
  • The panels are designed to be able to expand rapidly as new gene mutations and targeted treatments are discovered. 
  • The new panels are expected to substantially increase the number of patients diagnosed with both common and very uncommon genetic mutations in their cancer.
  • While some mutations may not be covered by current treatments, the results will lead to a better understanding of the cancer and its future treatment.
  • Health economic analysis has shown the panels to be a cost-effective way to improve cancer outcomes.

Quotes:

Terry Lake, Minister of Health, Province of British Columbia:

"We have seen success using personalized treatment, and I'm proud that we are taking the next steps towards providing this type of care for even more newly diagnosed cancer patients. Patients will benefit from a targeted approach, and we have the ability to offer care at a level only seen at the best cancer care centres."
 

Aly Karsan, Medical Director for the Centre for Clinical Genomics, BC Cancer Agency and Medical Director for the Cancer Genetics Laboratory, Lower Mainland Labs, PHSA:

"The gene mutations included on these panels were designed to help physicians choose between real treatment options that cancer patients can access today. As our knowledge of cancer genetics evolves, we can rapidly add more tests for more mutations with the hope of helping more cancer patients faster." 

Hagen Kennecke, Medical Oncologist and Professional Practice Leader, Medical Oncology, BC Cancer Agency:

"The OncoPanel and Myeloid Panel tests represent a significant step forward for precision medicine. With the detailed genetic fingerprint for individual cancers that these tests provide, oncologists in British Columbia now have even more advanced and specific information available to make the most informed treatment decisions for many of our cancer patients." 

Malcolm Moore, President, BC Cancer Agency:

"Personalized, or precision medicine, is an exciting way forward in cancer treatment. It allows us to match patients with the best treatment, gives them the greatest chance of success in fighting their cancer and avoiding unnecessary toxicity. BC has always been a leader in personalized cancer care and the introduction of these new diagnostic tests keeps us at the forefront of the field."
 

Carl Roy, President & CEO, Provincial Health Services Authority:

"Patient care is a top priority for PHSA and our significant and growing role in health research in Canada is an extension of this commitment. Thousands of patients will benefit from these new diagnostic panel tests that were created by our staff at Lower Mainland Labs and the BC Cancer Agency. These new multi-gene analysis panels allow more patients to be matched with the best treatment options available."
 

Sarah Roth, President & CEO, BC Cancer Foundation:

"Our donors have made the vision of personalized cancer care a reality for thousands of patients in BC. Believing and investing in the work of Drs. Aly Karsan and Hagen Kennecke has brought new hope and new treatment solutions to many."

Pascal Spothelfer, President & CEO, Genome BC:

"These gene panels represent a true impact -- the application to clinical diagnostics and care -- from Genome BC's ongoing investment into cancer research. Translating science into clinical application in just over five years is a remarkable achievement and we are delighted to continue funding these significant projects."

 

Background:

The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. For more information, visit www.bccancer.ca or follow us on Twitter @BCCancer_Agency.

Lower Mainland Labs (LM Labs), a service of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is a family of public laboratories located in hospitals and sites across the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and Central Coast. As a key component of the health care system, delivering results that inform 70 – 80% of medical decisions, LM Labs provide a comprehensive range of public pathology and laboratory services, from routine lab testing to highly specialized laboratory medicine to support diagnosis and care locally and across the province.

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca or follow us on Twitter @PHSAofBC.

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For more information or to arrange an interview:

Kevin Sauve
Communications Officer
kevin.sauve@bccancer.bc.ca
Desk: 604-877-6436
PHSA media line: 778-867-7472​
 
 
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