England’s chief medical officer calls for better access to genetic testing


England’s chief medical officer professor Dame Sally Davies has highlighted the need for routine access to genetic testing to improve diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the UK.

Davies urged the clinicians and the government to jointly work towards greater use of new genetic techniques to ensure increased cancer survival rates.

The ability of the genetic testing to precisely detect the faults in DNA is expected to facilitate faster diagnosis and determination of targeted treatments.

Davies said: “This technology has the potential to change medicine forever but we need all NHS staff, patients and the public to recognise and embrace its huge potential.”

A report published by the professor called for training of current and future clinicians, alongside better access to genomic tests within five years.

The report further urged investment in research and services to allow equal patient access, as well as prioritisation of research and international collaboration.

The initiative could potentially have to overcome potential challenges such as data protection, clinician attitudes and the public, Davies noted.

"This technology has the potential to change medicine forever but we need all NHS staff, patients and the public to recognise and embrace its huge potential."

According to Cancer Research UK, companies have started altering the design of their clinical trials to allow precise treatments.

Cancer Research UK chief executive Harpal Kumar said: “This timely report from the chief medical officer showcases just how much is now possible in genomics research and care within the NHS.

“Cancer Research UK is determined to streamline research, to find the right clinical trial for cancer patients and to ensure laboratory discoveries benefit patients.”

The organisation has collaborated with AstraZeneca and Pfizer to conduct the National Lung Matrix Trial, in which patients are assigned to select treatment based on their cancer’s genetic makeup.


Image: Genetic testing can pinpoint the faults in DNA that have led to cancer forming. Photo: courtesy of Cancer Research UK.