Muscat: Oman Cancer Association programme for genetic testing of cancer patients was inaugurated by Dr Hilal bin Ali al Sabti, Minister of Health, on Thursday evening at Grand Hyatt, Muscat.
The evening saw the signing ceremony between Oman Cancer Association and Occidental Oman for the genetic cancer programme.
This new development will see an opportunity to conduct more tests than before.
Dr Mohammed bin Abdullah al Lamki, a Board Member of the Oman Cancer Association, spoke about the Genetic Centre collaboration project with the Ministry of Health, Oman Cancer Association and Occidental Oman.
Dr Sulayma al Lamki, Director of the National Genetics Centre, introduced the gathering to Precision Oncology.
“Molecular profiling of tumours identifies targeted alterations. This is a rapidly advancing and developing milestone in the stream of clinical practice. The aim is to identify the therapy for the patients to give them the maximum survival opportunity and quality of life,” she said.
The procedure is performed on patients of metastatic disease or with diseases with fewer or no standard treatment available, cancers on which decisions depend on multiple molecular markers.
Treatment of cancer has surgery, radiation and medication.
“We have got chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, immunotherapy and now we can target cancer itself, so this is fighting cancer with less or no side effects,” she pointed out.
This is done by attaining the molecular profile, which will give diagnostic markers and different markers related to genetics and the treatment to target the genes.
“Gene therapy has been used for a while and had started with breast cancer, but now we have Precision Oncology, which can treat many cancers. The patient walks in, gets sample collected which goes to histopathology where they process and examine, after which it goes onto DNA and RNA profiling that leads to Precision Oncology data analysis and the patient receives targeted therapy,” explained Dr Al Lamki.
She pointed out that the service was available at the Royal Hospital for ten patients, costing $7000 a year. The sample was sent abroad, and the investigation was only available when the requests were from doctors of medical oncology.
The benefits of starting the service here have been that instead of 10 patients, it is now going to be 300 patients in a year. And now with the support of the sponsors, the Royal Hospital does not bear the cost. In the past, it was only for doctors in medical oncology; now, it is open to all the different departments.
The cost of three hundred tests that are sent abroad would have cost $210,000, which is about RO 80,000.
Another benefit is the turnaround time. It used to take three weeks in the past or more to get the results, but now they’re receiving it within a week.
“The validation process has been done as we have detected 27 samples, 33 DNA variance and 34 RNA variance. So the method is validated,” noted Dr Al Lamki.