Page URL:

Personalised cancer therapy on the NHS

5 June 2010
Appeared in BioNews 561

Cancer patients in the UK are to be treated with drugs specific to the genetic make-up of their individual tumours. A new initiative, to be launched by the NHS this autumn, will test the tumours of up to 6000 cancer patients a year for known genetic mutations. Identification of these mutations will determine the kind of treatment these patients receive.

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, which is launching the initiative, said: 'We believe that cancer medicine has reached a point where increasingly the genetic characteristics of individuals' tumours will and should dictate what treatments they receive. We now have enough genetic markers and drugs for this to make a real difference. It's patently obvious that this is going to be the way of the future'.

Genetically guided anti-cancer treatments are already in use in hospitals. For example, breast cancer patients who test positive for defects in the HER2 gene are treated with the drug Herceptin. However currently genetic testing of tumours is not uniformly available on the NHS and is often only carried out for a single genetic defect. The preliminary trial, to be carried out at six centres across the UK, will test for multiple genetic defects in tumours. The types of tumour to be tested, and the specific mutations to be screened, will be determined by a scientific advisory panel set up by Cancer Research UK.

James Peach, director of stratified medicine at Cancer Research UK said: 'The benefits for patients are clear: better treatments and avoiding unnecessary side-effects. But this would also allow us to drive research in stratified medicines by recording the effectiveness of certain treatments against each type of tumour'. It is also believed that targeting individual cancer treatments in this way could save the NHS money, by avoiding the use of expensive but ultimately ineffective drugs.

'Discoveries of new cancer genes, of new drug targets and of new ways to predict whether patients will respond to particular therapies are accelerating, but a major challenge is how to obtain the benefits of these advances for patients in the NHS. This initiative will form the basis for doing just that', says Professor Mike Stratton, director of the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. The results of this initiative will help guide future plans to apply genetic diagnostics in the treatment of cancer to the entire NHS.

Cancer patients to be offered personalised drug therapies
The Times Online |  3 June 2010
Gene test hope for personalised cancer therapy
BBC News |  3 June 2010
28 November 2011 - by Dr Rosie Morley 
An initiative has been launched to collect genetic data from NHS cancer patients in the hope of developing new, personalised treatments....
14 November 2011 - by Dr Louisa Petchey 
A new genetic test that will help to tailor drugs to cancer patients' individual tumours has been successfully trialled in the US...
22 August 2011 - by Nishat Hyder 
The NHS may be at risk of being sued over patent infringement, says a new report published by the Human Genetics Commission (HGC), the UK Government's genetics advisory body...
8 August 2011 - by Dr Kimberley Bryon-Dodd 
The NHS is 'unprepared' to deal with personalised medicine in the clinic, according to Sir John Bell - the UK Government's chief genetics advisor - during an interview with the Times. His comments come as a four-year-old girl last week became Britain's first person to have a rare genetic disease identified through DNA sequencing...
16 May 2011 - by Dr Jay Stone 
US scientists have designed a genetic test which could predict how a patient with breast cancer responds to chemotherapy. Researchers say the test, which works for those with certain newly diagnosed forms of cancer, could help women avoid unnecessary chemotherapy....
4 May 2010 - by Dr Sophie Pryor 
Whole genome analysis has been used for the first time to gather clinically-useful information about the risk of developing diseases later in life. Stephen Quake, an apparently healthy, middle-aged professor of bioengineering at Stanford University in California, volunteered to have his entire genetic code screened. He was found to be at increased risk of developing diabetes, some cancers and of having a heart attack...
29 March 2010 - by Sarah Pritchard 
Researchers at the University of California San Francisco are about to begin a groundbreaking new breast cancer trial designed to speed up the drugs discovery process and cut the delivery time of new personalised cancer therapies...
29 January 2010 - by Dr Charlotte Maden 
Researchers in the US have found that they can predict how well breast cancer patients respond to a type of chemotherapy based on certain genes. The findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine, highlight the potential for personalised cancer therapies in the near future....
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.