A pioneering project is to test the feasibility of whole genome screening in primary care, it was announced today.
About a thousand private practice patients in London will be invited to take part in the project. The tests will look for 600 genes related to cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research plan to begin with psychological testing of the first 20 patients to assess their reaction to the information available through genomic testing. They say that NHS practices will be included as the project develops.
As well as looking at 600 genetic changes associated with disease, the screening will look for genetic variants that affect the response to certain medicines. The researchers say the screening will be part of a detailed medical review, making it different from direct-to-consumer tests.
Professor Ros Eeles, of the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our new initiative takes cutting-edge science on the genetics of disease into a primary care setting, by sequencing patients’ entire genomes from samples taken at a GP surgery and testing for the presence of 600 key genetic alterations. What we hope is that genetic screening is practical as a way of picking up genes associated with cancer and heart disease, is psychologically acceptable to patients, and can alter the way they are managed by their GP.
“The project will give us crucial information about whether genetic screening in primary care could be feasible, and how we should go about seeking to implement it within the NHS.”
GP Dr Michael Sandberg said: “There is no doubt that primary care is the future setting for whole-genome screening which will be carried out by specially trained practice nurses supported by GPs and consultant geneticists.”