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Next generation genomic testing brings benefits to patients and clinicians at NUH

Genomic testing is an important tool in the diagnosis of many rare conditions and cancers. But when it comes to cancer, it can also help to understand a patient’s prognosis, for example how quickly their cancer is likely to grow. However, perhaps most importantly for most cancer patients, gene variants revealed through genomic testing can also help doctors provide more effective treatments, with potentially fewer side-effects, via targeted therapies.

The Genomics laboratory at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH), part of NHS East Genomic Laboratory Hub, has recently installed newer and more advanced testing equipment so that the team can carry out more detailed genomic testing for certain cancers.

The installation of two new Genexus machines is now enabling the NUH laboratory team to carry out testing where there is limited tumour sample available, which can help provide a diagnosis or provide further insight into the type of cancer patients are dealing with.

It also means they can test for a wider range of mutations than previously and bring a number of tests back in-house while simplifying, shortening and streamlining the process. Identification of these genetic mutations can mean access to potentially life changing targeted anti-cancer treatments.

Each Genexus machine can process up to 16 test samples at any one time and tests multiple genes in parallel and in detail on each sample. This has radically increased the capacity of the NUH lab to process and return more detailed genomic tests for cancers, and is a huge advance on the previous method which could only process one test sample on a single gene at a time.

It’s an exciting time for our team. We are now able to deliver some of the more advanced genomic tests for lung cancer, colorectal cancer and melanoma for patients across Nottinghamshire and will soon be expanding to cover further tumour types

Amanda Corkill, Genomic and Molecular Medicine Service Manager at NUH
Genexus machine at NUH
Manolo Papakonstantinou, Senior Healthcare Science Practitioner at NUH and Deniz Ucanok, Senior Clinical Scientist at NUH, with one of the two new Genexus machines at NUH

Anthony May, Chief Executive of Nottingham University Hospitals and Chair of the NHS East Genomics Executive Group said: "It is fantastic news for our patients and staff that more urgent cancer testing can now take place onsite at our Nottingham laboratory. This new technology helps us to move closer to our ultimate aim, working with our partners, to provide more testing across our region.

Ultimately we want to ensure that anyone who could benefit from genomic testing has access to it, regardless of who they are, where they live or what hospital they are treated at

Anthony May, Chief Executive of Nottingham University Hospitals and Chair of the NHS East Genomics Executive Group
Anthony May

Further developments in molecular testing are planned in the areas of whole genomic methylation profiling of brain tumours, whole genomic sequencing of paediatric tumours, brain tumours and sarcomas, and also in the delivery of genomic testing in haematological malignancy.

The Genomic and Molecular Medicine Service at NUH is one of three Local Genomic Laboratories, alongside Cambridge and Leicester, which make up NHS East Genomics Laboratory Hub (East GLH). This development is part of the wider expansion plans of the East GLH.

The East GLH offers a range of rare disease and cancer genomic tests to the East of England and East Midlands. All genomic tests provided by the East GLH are listed in the National Genomic Test Directory.