Genetic sequencing available for more Victorian patients


Photo: Genomic sequencing can offer quicker diagnoses for illnesses such as poor heart function and cancers.

Up to 800 Victorian patients will soon be able to access genetic sequencing to help speed up diagnosis time and improve the treatment of illnesses.

As part of a $25 million Victorian Government investment to improve the analysis of genetic information, the Melbourne Genomics Health Alliance will extend its research into five more areas.

Those areas include immune disorders, poor heart function, congenital deafness and lymphatic cancers.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy said 800 patients would have their entire DNA mapped over the next two years.

“Some patients have spent up to 15, 20, in some cases most of their life searching for a diagnosis,” she said.

“We will be able to get a quick diagnosis, this will enable us to get to the bottom of a disease or illness much more quickly and to come up with a better treatment plan that’s personalised for a patient.”

Ms Hennessy said the funding would save money in the long term and genomic sequencing was an important opportunity for people with inherited illnesses.

“It can help us better understand why a person has an illness or a disease,” she said.

“We’ve seen in the cancer space significant research breakthroughs in understanding genetic links.

“We need to do more around genomic sequencing to help us, not only to diagnose, but predict and treat.”

Ms Hennessy described genomic sequencing as like finding a needle in a haystack.

“It effectively provides us with a map to where the needle is,” she said.

Patient’s illness took years to diagnose

Jackie Murphy was in her mid 20s when she started to get sick.

It took 16 years before she was diagnosed with a rare immune deficiency disorder.

“If you take out 16 years of your life from your mid 20s to your late 30s think about what you’ve lost it’s huge,” she said.

Dr Charlotte Slade at the Royal Melbourne Hospital said it was common for mystery illnesses to remain undiagnosed for a decade or more.

“What it means for patients is they don’t get adequate treatment, they suffer chronic complications they may suffer unnecessary admissions to hospital unnecessary operations and many unfortunately die young.”