Every cancer is unique. Let’s treat it that way.

#PutCancerToTheTest is a global initiative run by Roche to raise awareness of the importance of cancer genomic testing and encourage more open discussion among patients, doctors and healthcare systems.


Why is it so important? Cancer genomic testing is a diagnostic test that is used to identify changes in the genes of cancer cells to determine how each individual tumour behaves and grows. This is crucial information that may help patients and doctors better understand the treatment options or clinical trials available to them.

We need to talk about cancer genomic testing
Bryce Olson, diagnosed with PI3K- and PTEN-mutated advanced prostate cancer
Photo of Bryce Olson

Despite the importance of cancer genomic testing, it is still not very well known or widely talked about.

A 2020 global awareness survey*, commissioned by Roche, of oncologists, people living with cancer and the general public revealed that almost half of cancer patients surveyed have no or low familiarity with the term, genomic testing. The survey also showed that in some countries, less than 20 percent of patients had spoken to their doctor about cancer genomic testing. Added to this, members of the general public surveyed said they think cancer genomic testing is one of the least important factors in finding the right treatment for each individual patient1.

At Roche, we want to help increase awareness and understanding of cancer genomic testing and the latest advances in cancer care. Cancer is personal. The more patients and doctors understand about an individual’s cancer, the better equipped they are to diagnose and treat it.

Cancer is not one disease

As science and technology have evolved over the past several decades, so has our understanding of cancer. Historically, cancer was often defined according to where it originates in the body (e.g. lung, breast, liver). Today, we know that cancer is a disease of the genome, meaning it is caused by underlying changes in a person’s cells, called genomic alterations. These genomic alterations can occur anywhere in the body and are what causes cancer cells to grow uncontrollably. Importantly, cancer genomic testing can help us identify the specific genomic alterations in each person’s cancer and potentially identify available targeted treatment options or clinical trials.

Take lung cancer for example. Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer-related death worldwide, claiming the lives of 1.76 million people each year2. We used to think there were two types of lung cancer. Fast-forward to today, and more than a dozen genomic alterations have been identified in lung cancer that can be targeted by specific treatment options3.

Testing for a personalised approach to treatment

Understanding the unique genomic alterations of each person’s cancer gives doctors vital information about their disease, to help diagnose and also plan a treatment path that is personal to them and their cancer. This can potentially include new treatment options and clinical trials that otherwise may have remained unknown, and help avoid treatments that are unlikely to have an impact. As technology has evolved, so have cancer genomic tests. Nowadays, a simple and non-invasive blood test can be used to scan for hundreds of genomic alterations.

In recent years scientists have advanced a new type of treatment approach, called ‘tumour-agnostic’. Tumour-agnostic treatments are specifically designed to target a tumour’s unique genomic alterations, irrespective of where the cancer is located in the body.

Combining cancer genomic testing with tumour-agnostic treatments can potentially open up new possibilities to people who may otherwise have few or no clinical options. Cancer genomic testing and tumour-agnostic treatments are included within a broader concept known as personalised healthcare. At Roche, personalised healthcare involves identifying the right treatment for the right patient at the right time.

To truly realise the promise of cancer genomic testing more needs to be done to improve awareness and understanding of the important role it can play.

Help us #PutCancerToTheTest

At Roche, we want to #PutCancerToTheTest by spreading the word about testing and encouraging more people living with cancer to have a conversation with their doctor about whether a cancer genomic test may be right for them.

You can help us #PutCancerToTheTest by showing this article to loved ones affected by cancer and by sharing this article on social media, with the hashtag #PutCancerToTheTest.

If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with cancer, download this guide to help you have a conversation with your doctor about cancer genomic testing.

What do you think when you hear the word ‘test’?

How does cancer start?

What does ‘tumour-agnostic’ mean?

*Global survey of 240 oncologists, 360 patients and 600 members of the general public across Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK


  1. Roche conducted survey: general awareness of genomic testing and the tumour-agnostic treatment approach. Conducted in general public, patients and oncologists in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK [N=1,200]; October 2020
  2. World Health Organization. Cancer [internet; cited 2021 February]. Available from:
  3. Mehta A, et al. Biomarker testing for advanced lung cancer by next-generation sequencing; a valid method to achieve a comprehensive glimpse at mutational landscape. Appl Cancer Res. 2020;40 (article 4).

Tags: Science, Patients, Oncology, Personalised Healthcare