DNA testing for cancer risk is now available and accessible at BPC

We are offering counselling and DNA testing for genes known to be associated with increased cancer risk.

Although DNA testing for cancer risk is well established, until recently it cost thousands of pounds and it took months before results were known.

Now a new assessment is available in the UK which makes genetics testing more accessible and affordable, with results available within four weeks or less.

This new service is at the forefront of the “genetics revolution” called for by England’s Chief Medical Officer this week. In her Annual Report, Professor Dame Sally Davies said she wanted genetic testing to become as routine as biopsies and blood tests in cancer care.

Professor Davies spoke about how genetic testing will improve the way risk is managed and treatment is targeted, so it is more likely to be effective.

The test is available at the Birmingham Prostate Clinic, with our consultant oncologist Dr Ahmed El-Modir providing pre-test counselling (which is compulsory), then advising patients on what their results mean for their personal cancer risk management or treatment.

Called The Color Test in association with BRCATESTUK, it analyses the 30 most relevant genetic mutations known to be associated with increased risk of prostate, colorectal, breast, pancreatic, stomach and uterine cancers and for melanoma.

“DNA testing to screen for risk of specific cancers has been in use for some years, but it has been prohibitively expensive,” explains Dr El-Modir. “This meant DNA testing could only be accessed by patients in clinical trials or by a very small number of self-pay individuals who could afford the high costs.”

This genetics test is of benefit to two different groups of patients:

  • People who may not have a current cancer diagnosis but are concerned about having a strong family history of cancer. For example, this could be a man who has first degree relatives (mother, sisters) who develop breast cancer or first degree male relatives with prostate cancer.
  • People with a diagnosis of prostate, ovarian or breast cancer where there is a suspicion that there is a genetic mutation involved in their cancer, for example, prostate, breast and ovarian cancers in individuals with faulty BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. This means their cancer is likely to be more aggressive with increased risk of distant metastases and poorer survival (see this study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology).
  • Men with metastatic prostate cancer and BRCA mutation should be referred into clinical trials using targeted therapies (called PARP inhibitors) which are more likely to be effective than other treatments

“It is important to emphasise: only a minority of cancers are due to inherited genetic mutations,” explains Dr El-Modir. “No more than about 10 per cent of cancers are a result of what is ‘in your genes’. The majority are a result of what we call sporadic mutations (bad luck) or lifestyle factors.

“However, genetics testing is now more accessible and we have a large body of evidence about how certain genetic mutations affect cancer risk. This is a positive development and if I had a strong family history of cancer, I would want more information.”

For example:

  • If DNA testing shows a mutation of the APC gene, this suggests a 70 to 100 per cent risk of colorectal cancer. An effected individual would therefore need a highly targeted active surveillance plan. Colorectal cancer is often detected late but if identified early, cure and survival rates are high
  • Among men with metastatic prostate cancer, 11 per cent were found to have faulty BRCA genes. Studies have shown that these men are more likely to have rapidly spreading cancer and accordingly need PARP inhibitors and a more aggressive treatment plan

To find out more about having The Color Test in association with BRCATESTUK at our clinic, please see our step-by-step guide to the process.