At an HSJ and Bayer roundtable experts discussed how NHS leaders can get to grips with genomics and precision medicine – and how we can ensure that every oncology patient who will benefit will have access to these developing technologies

Read the detailed report here

This joint roundtable was funded by Bayer who worked with HSJ to develop the agenda and identify participants. HSJ has retained editorial control with Bayer providing review for technical accuracy and compliance purposes only.

Job bag number: MAC-OTH-GB-0048

Date of preparation: May 2023 (originally approved for use in May 2020)

Whenever HSJ’s editor encounters Professor Sir John Burn, he offers a standard greeting: is it now time for the chief executive of a small DGH to start paying attention to genomics and precision medicine?

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Alastair McLellan’s consistent opening gambit to the professor of clinical genetics at the University of Newcastle does not mean these areas haven’t been on the radar. After all, it’s frequently posited that genomics – by which every single gene is examined (the genome) rather than specific genes or sets of genes as happened in the past – represents a revolution. As the cost and time taken to sequence a whole genome has fallen, so attention on making such a process more mainstream has grown, particularly in oncology.

It is argued that growing use of genomics could make it possible to create medicines which target the specific mechanisms of specific cancers in specific individuals. Indeed, some such drugs are already here. Herceptin, for instance, targets the HER2 protein which promotes the growth of cancer cells. In about 20 per cent of breast cancers, a gene mutation makes an excess of the protein.

The 100,000 Genomes project and, more recently, the launch of a national genomic medicine service are attempts to put the UK are the forefront of this promised revolution. And at an HSJ roundtable, sponsored by Bayer, Professor Sir John and others argued the time is definitely right for trust leaders across the country to be getting to grips with genomics and precision medicine. Only then, it was argued, can we be sure that every oncology patient who will benefit will have access to these developing technologies.

Rountable panellists: 

  • Philippa Brice, director of external affairs, PHG Foundation
  • Sir John Burn, professor of clinical genetics, University of Newcastle and chair, The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust
  • Richard Davidson, chief executive, Sarcoma UK
  • Professor Jo Martin, president, Royal College of Pathologists
  • Alastair McLellan, editor, HSJ (roundtable chair)
  • Anneke Seller, scientific director and head of genomics education programme, Health Education England
  • Dr Melissa Rowe, director medical affairs for specialty medicine, Bayer
  • Professor Clare Turnbull, clinical lead for cancer genomics, Genomics England
  • Ian Walker, director of clinical, population and early detection research, Cancer Research UK