A person’s DNA and genes provide a blueprint to their body, from hair colour to height. But did you know they can also predict a person’s likelihood for developing life-threatening diseases, like cancer? It took over 20 years to sequence the human genome, but thanks to incredible advances made in genomics research and technology, today it can be done in mere weeks.
Dr. Raymond Kim, Medical Geneticist and Director, Cancer Early Detection at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, leads a multidisciplinary team at the Bhalwani Familial Cancer Clinic who study the human genome with two goals in mind: to detect cancer at its earliest stage, and prevent the disease from developing in the first place.
Dr. Kim and the team of genetic counsellors work closely with individuals who are at a high risk of hereditary cancers. Their team uses genomic technologies—such as blood or saliva tests—to screen patients for dozens of genes responsible for inherited cancers. They then use this information to develop personalized treatment plans that target their specific genetic change.
The power of genetic testing extends beyond the cancer patient as it can also identify other family members at risk of developing the disease. In this way, Dr. Kim, considers these cancer patients as a “lighthouse” for the rest of their family, and their DNA is the “informational legacy” they can leave to the next generation.
For the genetics team at The Princess Margaret, people with hereditary forms of cancer are considered the key to solving all cancers. Data collected by studying cancers in hereditary patients allows researchers to detect cancer early and observe how all types of cancers grow, evolve, and spread. These insights are used to inform cutting-edge early detection approaches such as minimally invasive liquid biopsy genomic studies.
Thanks in part to the generous support of Home Lottery ticket purchasers, Dr. Kim and his team continue to advance vital research in the field of cancer genetics, with their discoveries enabling a future where cancers can be detected at their earliest possible stages, and intercept before symptoms occur. Thanks to you, we see a brighter future for cancer patients and their families.