Translations and transformations in patienthood: cancer in the post-genomics era

This project, “Translations and transformations in patienthood: cancer in the post-genomics era”, is a five-year research programme (2015-2020), funded by a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award in Society and Ethics. It is a collaboration between the Universities of Leeds and Edinburgh, with the funding awarded to Professor Anne Kerr (School of Sociology and Social Policy, Leeds) and Professor Sarah Cunningham-Burley (Centre for Population Health Sciences, Edinburgh). The Leeds Research Fellows working on the project are Julia Swallow and Choon Key Chekar

The research examines the transformations in cancer patienthood in the post-genomics era, and is located at the intersections of science and technology studies, medical sociology, and interdisciplinary bioethics.

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The Implications of Genomic Medicine for Cancer Patients Opportunities & Challenges

Developments in understanding and treating cancers are at the forefront of the post-genomic revolution. Scientific understanding of cancer has developed rapidly since the mapping of the human genome at the turn of the century, bringing novel treatments, such as stratified/personalised medicine, earlier diagnosis and screening programmes.

Alongside this, clinical practice is also rapidly developing in the context of stratified medicine, genomic sequencing, and data-sharing, which will impact on patients and their experience and understanding of cancer and its treatment in novel ways. Our understanding of patient experience has not kept pace with these developments in genomics. We know little about how genomics research and data, and their translational journeys, are reshaping what it means to be a patient now and in the future.

This project has adopted a multi-sited, qualitative approach to explore transformations in cancer patienthood in the post-genomics era in all of its dimensions, examining the implications of these changes for cancer patients, their families, health care professionals and the wider public.

The researchers are conducting multiple interviews, observations and group discussions, in order to explore how developments in cancer research and their clinical application change people's experiences of cancer risk and treatment, their relationships with health professionals and clinical researchers, and their hopes and concerns for the future.

We are exploring four main themes: the social issues involved in delivering stratified/personalised medicine; how new risk factors, screening, early diagnosis and monitoring for survivors fit with ideas about and experiences of being a patient; how patients think about being involved in cancer research, especially clinical trials; wider public engagement in cancer, the role of social media and new types of patient groups and activities. Working closely with patients, clinicians and scientists, we hope the research will contribute to improvements in health policy and service delivery in this important field.

Follow the project on Twitter @CancerandSoc21C

Project website