Improving cancer care in the NHS
One of the main aims of the 100,000 Genomes Project was to improve cancer care for NHS patients through personalised medicine.
This page covers the way the project met this aim.
Diagnosing and analysing cancer
Cancer can be described as a genomic disease, caused by changes to DNA. The changes cause cells to divide and grow uncontrollably.
Cancer is usually diagnosed by bringing together the results of different tests:
- results of scans
- physical checks
- pathological assessments (looking at the tumour down the microscope)
A pathologist looks at the size, shape and features of the cancer cells to grade their severity. Most cancers have three grades of severity. Pathologists also give a stage to the tumour. Sometimes, genetic testing of the tumour is also done.
We know that patients with the same diagnosis and same grade may fare differently. Some will respond well to treatment, others won’t.
That's where whole genome sequencing comes in.
Diving deeper into cancer analysis
Our efforts in the 100,000 Genomes Project have helped improve analysis of cancer for better patient treatment
Whole genome sequencing (WGS) for cancer
Whole genome sequencing can give deeper answers than previous methods of diagnosis and analysis. For example, WGS has shown there are many different types of breast cancer. Each has different changes to the DNA, the genome.
The different types may affect patients differently. Knowing which type someone has is valuable. It can help clinicians predict treatment response and give a more accurate prognosis.
WGS tests the whole genome at once, for all the different types of DNA changes that might be causing a cancer. WGS is sometimes cheaper than separate diagnostic tests.
This can help in diagnosis. The results can also show if a tumour might respond to a certain treatment. This could be a chemotherapy, a biological therapy or immunotherapy.
Improving cancer research
Aside from whole genome sequencing translating to better patient care, the de-identified DNA and health data from the 100,000 Genomes Project is also being used for scientific research.
Approved researchers – as part of our Genomics England Clinical Interpretation Partnerships (GECIP) – are continually using this incredible resource to discover the causes of cancer, as well as develop new ways to diagnose and treat it.
Each research group (called a domain) has its own aims, including:
- Studying the genetic changes that can lead to cancer by comparing germline (normal) and somatic (tumour) genomes for each patient.
- Looking at health data over a patient’s care to see how they reacted to treatment to identify genetic signatures that might influence how a tumour reacts to different treatments.
- Studying short fragments of DNA that are released into the bloodstream by dying tumour cells to possibly find a less-invasive means for tumour diagnosis, prognosis, and monitoring.
Results for cancer participants
As of December 2021, all 'main findings' analyses have been completed at Genomics England and returned to your NHS healthcare team. These should now have been returned to the individual. If you haven't received your results, you can enquire with your regional Genomic Medicine Service Alliance.
Use the button below to learn more about getting your results.
Participants also may have opted in for additional findings. Participants are still able to opt in or out from receiving additional findings.