Comprehensive Cancer Testing in Ontario – Wave 1

On June 1st, 2021, Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) began implementing comprehensive genetic testing for two additional types of cancer – uveal melanoma and head and neck cancers – and began expanded genetic testing for lung cancer, colorectal and small bowel cancers, and melanoma. This is an important step forward for targeted cancer care in Canada.

What this means is that when someone is diagnosed with any of these types of cancer, they are supposed to be tested to see if their tumours possess any biomarkers that are relevant for that cancer type. A biomarker is a sign that can be objectively identified by a medical professional (as opposed to symptoms, which are subjectively experienced) and gives them important information about a patient’s disease. In this case, the biomarkers being tested for are genetic in nature.

For many types of cancer, knowing that the tumour has a certain biomarkers can make a tremendous difference. The prognosis of the cancer and the treatments that will be effective often vary greatly depending on which biomarkers are present.

The implementation of standardized evidence-based biomarker testing for Ontarians is a significant step towards comprehensive genomic profiling across all cancers.

This is the first of three waves of CCO’s initiative towards comprehensive cancer testing at diagnosis. The second and third waves will be implemented on August 1st and October 1st, 2021, respectively.

For more detailed information, see the official announcement from Cancer Care Ontario.