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David Cameron announces cancer genome sequencing collaboration

07 October 2013

By Rhys Baker

Appeared in BioNews 725

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has announced a new partnership between Genomics England and Cancer Research UK as part of a Government bid to make the UK the first country in the world to sequence 100,000 genomes within five years.

The collaboration aims to sequence the whole genomes of 3,000 cancer patients and also the genomes of their tumours. The outcome of this effort may help determine which cancer treatments will be effective for individual cancer patients and may also help develop new cancer treatments that target specific genetic features of different cancers.

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: 'This rapidly-changing research field lays the foundations for even faster progress, saving many more lives from this devastating disease'.

The UK Foundation for Genomics and Population Health said in a statement: 'Britain has a potential strategic advantage in the development and delivery of genomic medicine in the form of the single public nationalised health service system, and the 100,000 Genomes Project has been seen by many as a crucial first step towards this'.

Mr Cameron announced this new partnership in tandem with a £400 million investment in the Cancer Drugs Fund. The Fund gives cancer patients in England access to treatments that are not available on the NHS. The extra money will support the Fund until March 2016 and will benefit new patients, as well as guaranteeing continued treatment for patients already receiving drugs.

Mr Cameron said these two initiatives will provide life-saving treatment to thousands more people: 'When I became Prime Minister three years ago many patients with rare cancers were being denied life-saving treatments. That is why we created the Cancer Drugs Fund, it is why we are extending it, and it is why we are partnering with Cancer Research UK to conduct new research into the effectiveness of cancer drugs'.

Current investment in the Cancer Drugs Fund now stands at £1.05 billion, but the additional support is controversial. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, which decides which drugs can be prescribed on the NHS, has rejected many of the treatments now available through the Cancer Drugs Fund on the basis of very high cost.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
The Guardian | 28 September 2013
 
Cancer Research UK (press release) | 28 September 2013
 
GenomeWeb (subscription) | 04 October 2013
 

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