Call for Whole Genome Sequencing to be offered to all cancer patients

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, calls for Whole Genome Sequencing to be offered to all cancer patients.

Prof Dame Sally Davies’, annual report was published on the 4th July 2017 calling for Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) to be offered to all cancer patients. WGS analyses an individual’s entire genome; looking at all 20 000 genes as well as the “packaging material” known as introns. Genomic testing can be used to target cancer treatment and prevention.


WGS is performed on a person’s blood to look for inherited changes (germline testing) or on the actual cancer (somatic or tumour testing) to determine what drives the cancer. By testing both germline and somatic genomes it is possible to determine the optimal cancer treatment and also the risk of future cancers. As our knowledge of genomics increases the ability to target treatment will continue to expand.

At present the NHS, GeneHealth UK and most clinical services offer targeted germline testing, analysing up to 100 known inherited cancer genes, to individuals meeting certain criteria. Prof Dame Davies suggests that in “the short-term, cancer panels might still be used widely” but that in future WGS must be offered instead.  She has said that the NHS must deliver this “genomic dream” within 5 years.

At GeneHealth UK we offer targeted cancer panels to help determine the optimal cancer treatment and risk reducing options as well as attempting to understand the cause of the cancer and giving information to the rest of the family.

Vicki Kiesel, Genetic Director of GeneHealth UK states “Prof Dames Davies’ comments are extremely timely. With the expansion in genomics it is vital that we ensure that the best technology and most up-to date knowledge are incorporated into our clinical services. At GeneHealth UK we are proud to offer the most advanced genetic technology and expert knowledge.” 

The annual report also recommends personalised cancer screening stating, “Combining information on genetic variants with other risk factors has the potential to improve cancer prediction and would allow us to better target people for existing cancer screening.”  In addition, to approximately 100 high risk inherited genes, there are multiple small genetic changes called SNPs (Single nucleotide polymorphisms) which collectively modify a person’s risk of cancer.  It is possible to use data on inherited genetic mutations and SNPs, as well as, personal medical history to estimate an individual’s risk of certain types of cancer and to create a personalised screening program.  

At Check4Cancer we are very excited to be doing just this, by launching the first UK based risk stratified breast screening program, via our BreastHealth UK brand (, based on the use of SNPs and the well-established Tyrer Cuzick Risk assessment model. Professor Gordon Wishart, Chief Medical Officer for Check4Cancer explains “There is now scientific evidence that the combination of the Tyrer Cuzick questionnaire with the saliva SNP DNA test provides a more accurate personal breast cancer risk assessment. MyBreastRisk will be the first commercially available test that combines both genetic and lifestyle factors to determine a woman’s personal lifetime breast cancer risk, and will be launched by October 2017.”

For further information about the report please go to