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ICR, Wellcome Trust, Illumina Launch Clinical Genetic Testing Effort

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A consortium of research centers led by the Institute of Cancer Research, London will partner with Illumina to launch a new sequencing-based testing program to analyze genetic mutations in cancer patients, the Wellcome Trust said today.

Funded with £2.7 million ($4.1 million) from the Wellcome Trust, the Mainstreaming Cancer Genetics program will incorporate Illumina's TruSight Cancer panel into clinical care as part of a three-year pilot project.

The collaborators, which along with ICR and Illumina includes The Royal Marsden Hospital and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics, will seek to develop and try out a set of tools for analyzing gene mutations that indicate predispositions for cancer. The partners see this project as a step toward making personalized cancer medicine part of routine clinical care.

They plan to start by looking at women with breast and ovarian cancer at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust but hope to have a set of tools that will cover testing for any cancer predisposition gene and which could be deployed throughout the UK National Health Service.

The partners plan to develop a single test that can analyze all of the genetic information that is relevant to cancer and that is faster and cheaper than current methods. In addition, they expect to develop the clinical infrastructure necessary to expand such a genetic testing program and to create an education and communication program to help patients understand the implications and benefits of genetic testing.

Under the model the partners are developing, genetic testing for cancer patients will be performed by oncologists and physicians who specialize in treating cancer, and not solely by geneticists, Wellcome Trust said.

"A real strength of this program is that the analysts are working directly with the people in the lab generating the data and the doctors that need to use it," Professor Peter Donnelly, head of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford, said in a statement.

"Many people with cancer are keen to have a gene test as soon as possible to help doctors plan the best treatment for them," added Professor Nazneen Rahman, lead investigator and head of genetics at ICR and the Marsden's Cancer Genetics Clinical Unit. "The complex decision-making that people without cancer have to consider before having a test often doesn't apply. We need a more flexible system that makes the testing process simpler when appropriate. This will allow many more people to benefit from gene testing."