Posted on 6th May 2022 by Barts Cancer Institute

£3.1 million for PROTECT trial: population-based genetic testing for cancer risk in women

Blue DNA structure isolated background. 3D illustration

Yorkshire Cancer Research has announced a £3.1 million grant for research led by Professor Ranjit Manchanda, from the Cancer Research UK Barts Centre, to investigate the risks, benefits, and feasibility of introducing population-based genetic testing for ‘all’ women to find out if they are at high risk of cancer. Thousands of women living in Yorkshire and other parts of the UK will be offered tests as part of the PROTECT (Population based germline testing for early detection and cancer prevention) clinical trial.

One in every 20 cancers in women are caused by genetic faults passed down through families and are potentially preventable, but 97% of women with these genetic faults remain unidentified. If found through testing, these women (and subsequently their relatives) can take measures such as surgery to remove the breasts, ovaries or womb, or undergo chemoprevention, to prevent breast, bowel, womb and ovarian cancer from developing. They can also undergo regular enhanced screening to enable earlier diagnosis, when outcomes are likely to be better and more treatment options may be available. Compared with England as a whole, Yorkshire has higher than average rates of cancer and cancer deaths, with some areas having among the poorest survival statistics in the country. Yorkshire also includes some of the most deprived areas in the country, where fewer cancers are diagnosed early, and more people die from the disease.

Ranjit Manchanda, Professor of Gynaecological Oncology at the Wolfson Institute of Population Health at Queen Mary University of London and Consultant Gynaecological Oncologist at Barts Health NHS Trust said:

“This critically important and exciting study can change the paradigm for implementing genetic testing in healthcare for patient and population benefit. This approach can prevent thousands more cancers than any current clinical strategy, saving many lives. Women diagnosed to have a high risk gene after getting cancer is a failure of cancer prevention.”

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