U.K. to Pilot Illumina Genetic Test for Breast, Ovarian Cancer

The U.K. is piloting a new genetic test developed by Illumina Inc. to help cancer patients and their doctors better identify appropriate treatments and help determine if relatives have cancer risk.

Illumina’s TruSight test, to be introduced in 2014 at the Royal Marsden hospitals in London and Sutton, can analyze 97 genes that are linked to cancer within a few weeks for a few hundred dollars, the Wellcome Trust said in a statement today. The pilot program will start for women with breast and ovarian cancer and may eventually be rolled out to the rest of the U.K. National Health Service and for other types of cancers, it said.

About 2 percent of cancers develop because of a mutation in a gene predisposed to the disease, such as BRCA1, which prompted actress Angelina Jolie to have a double mastectomy. Knowing whether a genetic mutation was the cause of a family member’s cancer will help relatives decide whether they need to get tested themselves, Nazneen Rahman, head of genetics at the Institute of Cancer Research and lead investigator of the new testing program, said in the statement.

“Sometimes a relative is found to also have an increased risk of cancer and screening or preventative measures can be employed,” Rahman said. “Just as frequently, testing provides the reassuring news that a relative is not at increased risk of cancer and does not need interventions.”

Illumina’s test is more affordable than other available options. Myriad Genetics Inc.’s BRCA tests cost about $4,000 for the most comprehensive screens.

It is also a faster way of testing than existing models, as cancer doctors can conduct the test at the treatment center without having to refer patients to geneticists, Rahman said.

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