Issue 01 | January 2017

Are you concerned about cancer?

Welcome to the first edition of myStrand – Your Compass to Precision Care!

myStrand gives you the opportunity to stay in touch with the latest developments in cancer research, diagnostics, and treatment available in India conveniently delivered to your inbox.

So should you be concerned about cancer? Rising air pollution is in the news every day and changed lifestyles bombard us with more carcinogens through food processing and packaging, especially in the cities. Surely you must have occasionally stopped to think how all this will affect your health and that of your family. Well, here at myStrand, we have pulled out the most recent estimates from health organizations and physicians.
NCRP cancer incidence projection

  • By 2020, every person is likely to know at least one person who is suffering from or who is lost to cancer..
  • In 2016, 8 lakh people were estimated to be diagnosed with cancer, 2.5 million people are living with the disease and 1,500 people die of cancer in India every day.

The advances in biological and medical research in the field of genomics over the last decade have allowed us to gain unprecedented insight into the workings of our bodies. This scientific insight has shed light on the causes of many diseases that had puzzled generations of scientists and doctors before.

The development of next-generation sequencing (NGS) technology aided this research but its large-scale application in healthcare was hindered by high costs. The gradual reduction of cost of pinpointing the smallest of variations in our genes and their impact on our health through technological advances has led to a revolution in healthcare, known as Personalized Genomics or Personalized Medicine.

Today, Personalized Genomics is an important additional tool for doctors to diagnose and treat patients with cancer as well as rare diseases. Its important contribution to providing the best healthcare is becoming increasingly clear as more and more research, clinical trials and actual patient cases show that a personalized approach to diagnosing and treating diseases such as cancer can be more effective than conventional methods (read more about a particularly stubborn case of cancer where a personalized genomics approach extended a patient’s lifespan here). And often it proves to be more cost-effective too as patients can avoid treatments that would prove ineffective for their particular genetic profile.

At Strand Life Sciences, we specialize in the latest science and medical knowledge related to the NGS-based diagnosis and treatment of cancer and rare diseases. Through our Strand Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine based in Bangalore, we provide genetic testing services for:

  • identifying hereditary cancer predisposition, including testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, known to be involved in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) syndrome, as well as genes involved in other hereditary cancer syndromes (Strand Hereditary Cancer Test). This test allows you to take preventive and screening measures to diagnose any cancer early when a wider range of treatment options exist and chances of long-term remission are higher.
  • identifying tumor-causing mutations in somatic cancer and identifying matching treatments as well as clinical trials and supporting research findings. Treating physicians can use this information as guidance when deciding on the best treatment course for their patients (StrandAdvantage).
  • diagnosing rare diseases in affected patients as well as carrier screening for family planning (Strand Rare Disease Test).

Reading myStrand will keep you informed of the latest developments in the Personalized Genomics and Medicine space. Keep reading and share this email with your friends and loved ones to give you, your family and your friends a better chance to Stay Ahead Of Cancer!

The myStrand team!

Show full article.

What are genes?

illustration-geneto-proteinGenes are the recipes that tell each cell in your body what to do and allow our bodies to function. Humans have around 20,000 genes, which are collectively referred to as the human genome. Now think of the human genome as a big recipe book written with just four letters: A, T, C, and G, the language of DNA. Each recipe produces a different type of protein that our cells can use to perform their specific functions (like making our hearts beat or allowing our eyes to see).

Cancer and its causes

Most people run the risk of developing cancer by chance at some point during their lifetime due to a variety of factors that cause genetic alterations, also called mutations. Not all mutations lead to an increased risk of cancer, but if our cells accumulate 3-4 or more mutations in their genes, then the chances of developing cancer become high.

Now, if the affected genes have an important job related to cell growth, multiplication, or cell death and they can no longer do their job properly, the cell that contains the affected gene (e.g. skin cells in skin cancer, or a liver cell in liver cancer) will start to multiply uncontrollably and form a tumor.

Some of the factors known to cause gene mutations that go on to cause a type of cancer known as sporadic or somatic cancer, are all around us and can be:geography-of-cancer

  • Environmental insults like pollution or excessive exposure to sunshine.
  • Exposure to carcinogenic materials, like asbestos.
  • Lifestyle habits, like drinking alcohol, being overweight or smoking.

(You can read more about this subject on Strand Gene Word.)

We all know that lifestyle choices are in our control. For example, we can manage weight and other issues with proper diet or exercise. However, some people have variants of genes that can increase their chances of developing cancer. Such people have a higher risk of developing cancer than those who may develop the disease by chance because they carry this gene variant in every cell of their bodies. This type of cancer is known as hereditary cancer or germline cancer because the genetic mutations responsible for causing cancer are passed on from one generation to the next. For example, if your mother or father suffered from cancer and is found to have such a cancer-causing mutation, your chance of having inherited that mutation is 50%.

To know whether you carry such a mutation or not is important as people with a hereditary predisposition are likely to develop cancer at a younger age compared to sporadic cancer cases. The reason for this is that it requires fewer environmental insults, less exposure to carcinogens and smaller amounts of adverse lifestyle habits, or no additional mutations at all for cells to turn cancerous in people who were born with a faulty cancer-causing gene mutation. Today we have the knowledge and technology to conduct diagnostic tests for such mutations and the Strand Hereditary Cancer Test covers the most common genes for which testing is recommended.

How can we prevent cancer?

Ideally, like any many other diseases, there should be ways to prevent cancer. We all know that when it comes to health, prevention is better than cure. However, medicine has not yet advanced to a stage where we can prevent cancer. However, what we can do, is have newer and better diagnostic tests and strategies for managing a person’s risk of cancer.

If you see that a lot of relatives in your immediate and extended families are suffering from cancer, the best way to know whether you are at an increased risk is to speak to a genetic counselor to establish whether there is a family history of a particular cancer syndrome like hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) or colorectal, ovarian, and endometrial cancer (including Lynch syndrome) for example. If a genetic counsellor suspects such a syndrome they can recommend the appropriate genetic test to confirm whether any hereditary mutations are present in your genes. If an increased risk is confirmed, your doctor can advise you of the available and recommended screening and prevention options that apply to the identified cancer syndrome.

Visit our website to learn more about hereditary cancer and genetic testing for inherited mutations: www.strandls.com/stayaheadofcancer

About Genetic Counselling!

Since you’ve attended one of our corporate screening events you will already have heard a bit about Genetic Counselling. To know more about what happens at a Genetic Counselling session, watch this video!