Cancer Research Malaysia (CRM) has collaborated with geneticists, gynaecologists, and oncologists throughout the nation to complete a study called MaGiC, which stands for “Mainstreaming Genetic Counselling for Genetic Testing of BRCA1 and BRCA2 in Ovarian Cancer Patients in Malaysia”.
By spearheading this study, CRM has made Malaysia the first country in Asia to mainstream genetic counselling for ovarian cancer nationwide.
The MaGiC study began in 2017 to determine the feasibility and impact of introducing mainstreaming – namely, the implementation of genetic or genomic testing in other specialties such as oncology, to aid diagnosis and/or treatment – to the Malaysian population. Through this study, a total of 800 ovarian cancer patients across Malaysia had access to genetic testing and counselling for faulty BRCA genes: a drastic increase in access to genetic testing from an estimated five per cent to 52 per cent.
The impact has been positive in that mainstreaming is proven to be a feasible option to address the increasing need for genetic services in lower-resource settings like Malaysia and other Asian countries, thus paving the way to improve patient access to better treatment and risk management options.
Prof Dr. Woo Yin Ling, Consultant Gynae-oncologist at University Malaya and Lead Clinician in the MaGiC study said, “This study has shown that mainstreaming among the gynaeonocologists and oncologists is feasible, and it has built that resource of trained clinicians nationwide to improve genetic counselling and testing access”
Dato Dr Rushdan, a gynaecologist at a Ministry of Health (MoH) hospital explained, “As one of the few trained surgeons that specialise in women’s cancers, we manage the treatment of many women with different types of cancers. However, prior to this study, we received little training on how to incorporate genetics in our clinics.
“As a hospital situated outside the Klang Valley, it was a challenge for patients to have access to this kind of service. Thanks to the MaGiC study, we are delighted to provide equitable access to precision medicine and we hope that this will lead to an improvement in survival rates of ovarian cancer patients in Malaysia.”
Ms Yoon Sook-Yee, Principal Investigator of the Study and Genetic Counsellor at Cancer Research Malaysia explained that “Identifying BRCA mutations in ovarian cancer patients is important for their medical management and preventative measures for their relatives. However, due to the lack of genetic counsellors, clinical geneticists and awareness among clinicians, there is inadequate genetic testing in most parts of Asia.
“Mainstreaming genetic counselling will help improve access to BRCA genetic testing in Malaysia, thereby allowing us to identify individuals with higher risk of cancer as well as improve patient access to better treatment and risk management options.”
Genetic counseling service was previously only available at four clinics; access has since grown to make this available in 23 hospitals. Professor Datin Paduka Dr Teo Soo Hwang, Chief Scientific Officer of CRM added, “Our earlier research had identified how common this genetic alteration is. Therefore, we have developed a more accessible alternative to conduct the genetic test.
“We are overjoyed to have mainstreamed our services which enable greater access to genetics services nationwide. What we do is only possible because of the support from the public through partnerships, fundraisers, and donations – that is the key to the sustainability of this programme.” — The Health