Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative:  Frequently Asked Questions

The Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative (MCGI), enabled through generous financial support from the Harold Alfond® Foundation, leverages the strengths of key medical and bioscience research institutions in Maine to create an alliance focused on precision cancer diagnostics and treatment. 


What is MCGI?

  • The Maine Cancer Genomics Initiative (MCGI) is a collaboration between leading medical and scientific institutions to understand how testing cancer patients’ tumors impacts cancer care now                      and in the future.

  • A collaboration of leading Maine and New England clinical and research institutions focused on advancing cancer care and research in Maine, supported by the Harold Alfond® Foundation in partnership with The Jackson Laboratory, which provides Maine cancer patients and clinicians access to genetic tumor testing to support cancer patient care and research. 

  • MCGI is designed to foster this emerging approach to cancer care, also known as precision medicine, and to support Maine cancer clinicians and patients. 

Key features of MCGI

  • Cancer clinicians can provide their patients with access to genomic tumor testing.

  • The test is provided to patients at no cost.

  • By furthering cancer research, there will be potential opportunities for patients to participate in long-term projects.

  • Our initiative is designed to support and increase clinician knowledge of genetic tumor testing.

  • A collaboration to transform Maine into a center for precision medicine research.

Why is MCGI in Maine? 

Cancer is one of the leading cause of death in Maine and new tests and treatments for cancer are increasingly based on the genetic testing of tumors. MCGI is designed to foster this emerging approach to cancer care and to support Maine cancer clinicians and patients. 


How do genomic changes cause cancer?

Your body is made up of trillions of cells. Each cell contains the set of instructions for your body to function, also known as your genes. You inherit your genes from your parents. Genes tell your cells how to grow and work and are made up of a substance called DNA. A complete set of genes is called a genome. 

Cancer is due to changes in a cell's genome called variants. These variants cause that cell to grow in an uncontrolled way.

Researchers and doctors know some of the genomic variants that can cause cancer, but they do not know all of them. 

What is genomic tumor testing?

Genomic tumor testing is used to find genomic variants that exist in cancer cells. Some of these variants may play an important role in how the cancer grows, spreads and responds to treatment. Therefore, genomic tumor test results can sometimes help doctors choose the right medicines to treat your cancer. 

Occasionally, genomic tumor testing can also find genomic variants that exist not only in cancer cells, but in the normal, noncancer cells of your body. These variants can be inherited (passed on from parent to child), and may be important to know about.

How is genomic tumor testing done?

Tumor tissue testing can usually be done on tissue that was already collected and stored as part of your medical care.

Genomic tumor testing is performed in a CLIA-certified laboratory. CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) certification means that the laboratory meets federal regulatory standards for testing human samples. Your doctor will get a report about the variants found with genomic tumor testing. You and your doctor will decide how to use the information to guide your care. 


What are the benefits of genomic tumor testing?\

 The results of genomic tumor testing may provide information on how your cancer is expected to act, and may help you and your doctor decide how to treat your cancer. 


Are there risks to genomic tumor testing?

 There is a possibility that knowing the results from your genomic test may cause you to feel anxious, disappointed or upset. This is because the may result in the following:

  • Not be helpful in deciding which medicines to use. Although some patients may benefit from genomic tumor testing, current studies suggest that most patients will not.

  • Identify genomic variants that have uncertain meaning or significance for your treatment.

  • Identify genomic variants that cannot be treated.

  • Show that you are eligible for a medicine that your insurance does not pay.

  • Show that you are eligible for a clinical trial that is only available at a hospital a distance from your home.

  • Show that you may have a genomic variant that you inherited from one of your parents.

    • If your doctor is concerned about this, you may need another blood test. Your doctor sometimes orders this test, or you may be referred to see a genetic counselor.
    • If an inherited genomic variant is found some of your relatives may have inherited this variant and may be at risk for cancer or other disease. 

What happens if I don’t want genomic tumor testing?

Genomic tumor testing is your choice. Whether you decide yes or no, you will still get excellent care. If you decide not to have genomic tumor testing, you may be able to change your mind in the future.

How do I learn more about genomic tumor testing?

Ask your doctor about genomic testing and whether it might be right for you.