#PutCancerToTheTest is a global initiative run by Roche to raise awareness of the importance of cancer genomic testing and encourage more open discussion among patients, doctors and healthcare systems.

Why is it so important?is a diagnostic test that is used to identify changes in the genes of cancer cells to determine how each individual tumour behaves and grows. This is crucial information that may help patients and doctors better understand the treatment options or clinical trials available to them.

Despite the importance of cancer genomic testing, it is still not very well known or widely talked about.

A 2020 global awareness survey1, commissioned by Roche, of oncologists, people living with cancer and the general public revealed that almost half of cancer patients surveyed have no or low familiarity with the term, genomic testing. The survey also showed that in some countries, less than 20 percent of patients had spoken to their doctor about cancer genomic testing. Added to this, members of the general public surveyed said they think cancer genomic testing is one of the least important factors in finding the right treatment for each individual patient2.

At Roche, we want to help increase awareness and understanding of cancer genomic testing and the latest advances in cancer care. Cancer is personal. The more patients and doctors understand about an individual’s cancer, the better equipped they are to diagnose and treat it.

Bryce Olson

Penny Rutterford, UK.

Diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer

Susan S, US.

Diagnosed with NTRK gene fusion-positive thyroid cancer. Founder of NTRKers patient community and support group

Markus Kotterer, Switzerland.

Diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Rachael Griffin, UK.

Diagnosed with triple-positive breast cancer

Susan S, US.

As science and technology have evolved over the past several decades, so has our understanding of cancer. Historically, cancer was often defined according to where it originates in the body (e.g. lung, breast, liver). Today, we know that cancer is a, meaning it is caused by underlying changes in a person’s cells, called genomic alterations. These genomic alterations can occur anywhere in the body and are what causes cancer cells to grow uncontrollably. Importantly, cancer genomic testing can help us identify the specific genomic alterations in each person’s cancer and potentially identify available targeted treatment options or clinical trials.

Takefor example. Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related death worldwide, claiming the lives of 1.76 million people each year3. We used to think there were two types of lung cancer. Fast-forward to today, and more than a dozen genomic alterations have been identified in lung cancer that can be targeted by specific treatment options4.

Understanding the unique genomic alterations of each person’s cancer gives doctors vital information about their disease, to help diagnose and also plan a treatment path that is personal to them and their cancer. This can potentially include new treatment options and clinical trials that otherwise may have remained unknown, and help avoid treatments that are unlikely to have an impact. As technology has evolved, so have cancer genomic tests. Nowadays, a simple and non-invasive blood test can be used to scan for hundreds of genomic alterations.

In recent years scientists have advanced a new type of treatment approach, called. Tumour-agnostic treatments are specifically designed to target a tumour’s unique genomic alterations, irrespective of where the cancer is located in the body.

Combining cancer genomic testing with tumour-agnostic treatments can potentially open up new possibilities to people who may otherwise have few or no clinical options. Cancer genomic testing and tumour-agnostic treatments are included within a broader concept known as personalised healthcare. At Roche, personalised healthcare involves identifying the right treatment for the right patient at the right time.

Bryce was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer when he was 44 years old. After a few unsuccessful treatments, he was running out of options. However a cancer genomic test revealed what was uniquely causing Bryce’s cancer to grow, and importantly, allowed his doctors to identify new treatment options.

“With cancer genomic testing, you can get a personalised diagnosis that’s unique to you as an individual,” explains Bryce. “I didn’t understand anything about cancer genomic testing before my diagnosis. But, once I understood, I decided I have to try and open up new doors for myself.”

More than six years after his diagnosis, Bryce is glad he had the conversation about cancer genomic testing, and urges others to do likewise.

“It’s important to know about cancer genomic testing because we all know somebody with cancer,” he says. “Whether it’s your brother, sister, mother, father, grandma or grandpa, we all know somebody.”

In addition to low awareness of cancer genomic testing and the tumour-agnostic treatment approach among patients and the general public, our 2020 global awareness survey also revealed conversations around testing are not consistently being had2. This means that many individuals who could potentially benefit from testing may not be informed or empowered to start discussions with their doctors. Results from our survey showed:

Almost all oncologists view cancer genomic testing as a potential option to help decide treatment pathways for patients, however only around one-fifth say they speak to every patient about testing

The vast majority of oncologists say they need easier access to cancer genomic testing to increase its use with patients

Almost half of patients have no or low familiarity with the term, genomic testing

In most countries, less than one-third of patients had discussed cancer genomic testing with their doctor

The vast majority of the general public are only moderately familiar with the terms, genomic testing or tumour-agnostic, with more than one-third having no familiarity with either term at all

Less than a quarter would definitely ask a doctor about cancer genomic testing if they or a loved one were diagnosed with cancer, making it one of the least important topics to discuss

To truly realise the promise of cancer genomic testing more needs to be done to improve awareness and understanding of the important role it can play.

At Roche, we want toby spreading the word about testing and encouraging more people living with cancer to have a conversation with their doctor about whether a cancer genomic test may be right for them.

You can help us #PutCancerToTheTest by showing this article to loved ones affected by cancer and by sharing this article on social media, with the hashtag #PutCancerToTheTest.

If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with cancer,to help you have a conversation with your doctor about cancer genomic testing.

References

  1. Global survey of 240 oncologists, 360 patients and 600 members of the general public across Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

  2. Roche conducted survey: general awareness of genomic testing and the tumour-agnostic treatment approach. Conducted in general public, patients and oncologists in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK [N=1,200]; October 2020

  3. World Health Organization. Cancer [internet; cited 2021 February]. Available from:

  4. Mehta A, et al. Biomarker testing for advanced lung cancer by next-generation sequencing; a valid method to achieve a comprehensive glimpse at mutational landscape. Appl Cancer Res. 2020;40 (article 4).

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