The OncoPanel and Myeloid Panel are clinical tests that can detect multiple different mutations simultaneously in several genes 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 now eligible for OncoPanel testing. Newly diagnosed patients with acute myeloid leukemia, myeloproliferative neoplasms and myelodysplastic syndromes are now eligible for Myeloid Panel testing.
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.
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 (POG) program. These mutations were included as they are the most clinically relevant for known publicly funded treatment plans or ongoing clinical trials. However, the panels are designed to be able to expand rapidly as new gene mutations and targeted treatments are discovered.
BC Cancer Agency clinicians and scientists expect the new panels to substantially increase the number of patients diagnosed with common and very uncommon genetic mutations associated with their cancer. This will allow for better precision therapy for patients or may suggest participation in an appropriate clinical trial that is curtailed to their specific disease.
More than 600 patients and 79 oncologists and haematologists were involved in validating the panels in two clinical trials run by the BC Cancer Agency. These studies demonstrated that the results were accurate and that they could be achieved rapidly and within a planned period of time. The clinical trials were also an important way to educate doctors across BC about how to interpret the results and how to use them in clinical care. And health economic analysis showed the panels to be a cost-effective way to improve cancer outcomes.
While not all mutations that are discovered using the panels will be treatable with current protocols, the results will lead to a better understanding of these particular cancers and help to improve future treatments.
For more information, read the news release here