‘Game-changer’: CUH trial cuts waiting time for genetic tests for cancer from two years to just four weeks
Cancer doctors involved in a life-saving trial which has reduced the time patients must wait for genetic testing from two years to just four weeks are hoping it can secure funding to be made permanent.
The trial at Cork University Hospital (CUH) has been described as a “game-changer” in the fight against cancer
It has already fast-tracked testing for more than 80 patients and, with confirmation of extra funding, it will continue for the rest of this year, testing a further 30 cancer patients a month.
Professor Mark Corrigan, a surgical oncologist at CUH, said: “We are very excited about this. Reducing the time it takes to identify what form of cancer we are dealing with through swamped national services, from two years, to just four weeks in Cork, is massive.
“If we can determine what specific genes are contributing to a patient’s cancer, we can use that information to modify their treatment.
“Extra funding is extending the pilot until the end of this year but we want to expand and develop it well beyond that. It is having a transformative effect on cancer care.”
The pilot project profiles a patient’s cancer, and allows specialists to decide the most effective surgery, treatment or medication.
It also has the potential to prevent cancer and deaths by identifying hereditary gene mutations that can be passed from patients to their children and grandchildren.
Cork mother-of-two Fiona O’Keeffe (49), who is recovering from breast cancer, is also urging authorities to put the programme on a permanent footing. She was diagnosed at 46, her sister faced the same battle aged 40 and they lost their mother to the disease last year.
Ms O’Keeffe did not benefit from the new testing trial at CUH. Instead, she travelled to Dublin for genetic testing to find the gene causing the cancer in her family, which was a major upheaval as it removed her from experts in Cork.
“In that time, you lose the connection with the people you’re used to dealing with,” she said.
“This new clinic is so welcome. Because you’re containing all your care in one place, it’s less stressful. My hope is that it is here to stay to benefit the next generation.”
CUH, the National Cancer Control Programme and the South/South West Hospital Group collaborated to get the six-month pilot project off the ground.
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