Dr Mike Hubank, Joint Head of Clinical Genomics (Research)

As Joint Head of Clinical Genomics (Research) in the NIHR Centre for Molecular Pathology (CMP) in Sutton, I lead a team of 10 scientists who examine the molecular profiles of patients to find mutations that our clinical colleagues can target with drugs. In recent years, the treatment of cancer patients has become far more personalised. This is where genomics comes in. My team and I work hard to find different ways to ensure that every patient’s treatment can be tailored to achieve the best outcomes.

Match makers

I cycle to work from my home a few miles away. It helps me wake up and feel ready for the day ahead by the time I start at 8am. I hold weekly meetings with my team to discuss problems and plan our work. Much of my role involves troubleshooting, and my door is always open during the rest of the week so my team feels supported.

An important aspect of our work is testing patients’ samples so that we can match them to an experimental drug trial. We are in the lab every day, processing the DNA from tissue biopsies and blood samples on state-of-the-art sequencing machines to find glitches that tell us which is the best drug for that patient.

Technology is helping us make advances in genomics. It can be a complicated process: it takes one to two weeks to report results, depending on the tests being run, but we’re always trying to make the process better, faster and cheaper. 

In the future, our tests could guide the treatment of every cancer patient

We also aim to introduce new genomics methods into standard NHS practice. To help this happen, I meet every couple of days with Lisa Thompson, who heads the Clinical Genomics Diagnostics Team, and Fiona Stimson, CMP General Manager. Lisa’s team tests samples to see whether patients are suitable for approved drugs such as trastuzumab (Herceptin). Our labs work to the same high standards so that we know any tests we develop will work in the demanding environment of the NHS.

Bench to bedside

One of the most satisfying parts of the job is attending the two monthly molecular tumour board meetings with consultants in paediatrics and the Breast Unit. Seeing decisions made on the basis of our tests really brings home how our work can make an enormous difference to patients.

We are involved in several large national projects such as the 100,000 Genomes Project, which requires collaboration with other centres. The Royal Marsden and The Institute of Cancer Research have together signed up to a national project in which we’ll offer genomic profiling for every paediatric patient in the country with a solid tumour. Personalised treatment options for children are limited, so we really hope to change that.

Clinical genomics is a very exciting part of oncology to be involved in. My ideal is that, in the future, our tests will guide the treatment of every cancer patient. I know I am in the best place to help achieve that goal.