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Welsh Government announces more gene testing to speed up diagnosis of cancer

07 Dec 2022 3 minute read
Picture by JBLM PAO (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

The Welsh Government has announced plans to extend the use of gene testing to speed up the diagnosis of cancer and other diseases.

Describing the new Genomics Delivery Plan for Wales as “ambitious”, ministers say thousands of people in Wales will benefit from the earlier detection of a range of diseases.

Genomics is the study of genes and genetic information and its use in medicine has expanded rapidly in recent years, using genomic information for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

Genomic medicine is making a growing impact in the fields of oncology, pharmacology, rare and undiagnosed diseases, and infectious disease, leading to early detection and prevention of diseases, new treatments and personalised medicines.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said the government’s new plan sets out how the NHS can take advantage of the genomics revolution in healthcare.

Ambitions set out in the plan include:

Offering more extensive genomic testing and support to patients with a suspected rare disease and for specific cancer types by increasing the number of genomes sequenced annually from 240 to 3,000 a year, within the next three years.

Offering up to 5,000 extensive genomic testing profiles annually to patients with newly diagnosed cancer to improve diagnosis and survival rates.

Creating a £15m Genomic Centre for Wales.

Strengthening the genomic surveillance of pathogens to help prevent and deal with communicable diseases, including the threat from new pandemics.

Revolutionising healthcare

“Genomics is revolutionising the way we think about healthcare and has already impacted the way we deliver many services,” Eluned Morgan said.

“This plan will put us in a position to use genomics to transform how we deliver healthcare in the future. By preparing now, Wales will be ready when the use of genomics is commonplace in our health service.

“The role of genomics in healthcare has increased steadily since the pandemic. The adoption of these new technologies has already delivered real benefits for patients. It has provided us with a far more detailed understanding of what causes illness and infectious disease and is underpinning the development of new interventions that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.”

Minister for Economy, Vaughan Gething, who is responsible for science within the Welsh Government added: “Over time, science has played a pivotal role in transforming modern medicine. The way we provide healthcare to people today is very different to how it was provided even 20 years ago. This has helped save countless lives.

“The advances scientists have made in understanding the genomic code means clinicians can increasingly detect suspected rare diseases early and offer highly personalised life-saving treatments.

“I’m proud that Wales is driving ahead with this ambitious plan, which will enable the Welsh NHS to further improve the health and well-being of people across the country.”

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