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More Canadians to benefit from personalized cancer treatment

August 14, 2015

Personalized cancer treatment requires complex clinical laboratory testing to determine a tumour’s genetic profile. The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, a leader in providing this testing for its patients, and LifeLabs Medical Laboratory Services have begun working together to expand this testing capacity to more Canadians.

The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (PMCC) has teamed up with Ontario-based LifeLabs Medical Laboratory Services (LifeLabs) to expand the availability of cancer genome profiling across Canada, with funding from Genome Canada. This will improve access to personalized cancer treatment for patients across the country.

Cancer genome profiling is emerging as an essential step in modern cancer care. The percentage of patients whose tumours were driven by genetic mutations that could be targets for tailored cancer therapeutics range from 21% (head and neck tumours) up to 73% (melanoma), according to a Personalized Medicine Coalition report. In fact, tumour classification is changing from being based on the tissue of origin to being based on the underlying genomic alterations, making it critical that patients across the country have equal and timely access to appropriate testing. And as discussed in an accompanying article “Can personalized cancer care be cost-effective?” this type of testing can lead to better outcomes as well as save healthcare dollars.

Major treatment centres such as the PMCC have been at the forefront of developing and applying new tumour genetic profiling tests for their patients. However, access to these tests outside such major cancer centres is difficult due to the complexity of the tests.

For this project, Dr. Suzanne Kamel-Reid at the PMCC and team will combine their expertise in next-generation sequencing for clinical tumour profiling with LifeLabs’ expertise in specimen collection, their transportation network and logistics capabilities. They will also develop a secure cloud-based cancer genome analysis infrastructure to be able to store and share information between the two groups. The combined expertise and resources will expand the availability of such tests across Canada including rural areas and community hospitals.

By: Kathryn Deuchars, Director, Ontario Personalized Medicine Network