NHS to Offer Personal Cancer Care Based on Genetics

The Chief Medical Officer for England has spoken about the potential for a new era of personalised medicine for cancer based on genome-related treatment.

Professor Dame Sally Davies believes that genomics sequencing could become as commonplace as MRI and CT scans in the future.

With researchers making big strides, Davies suggests that it will eventually be possible for every cancer patient to have genome sequencing conducted.

This will become as standard in treating those with cancer as blood tests and biopsies.

It will be increasingly possible to offer greater access to this technology, meaning that cancer patients no longer have to cope with multiple tests and visits to various specialists.

Whole genome sequencing involves unscrambling the entire book of genetic instructions that comprise human beings, encompassing 3.2 billion ‘letters’ of code.

Previous studies have suggested that the genomes of cancer patients can provide actionable data based on personal mutations in around 60% of cases.

This revelation will shape future treatment of the debilitating and deadly condition.

Tens of thousands of patients within the NHS system have already had their personal DNA matched, but the recommendations as set out in Davies’ Generation Genome report will multiply the numbers many times over.

“The age of precision medicine is now and the NHS must act fast to keep its place at the forefront of global science. This technology has the potential to change medicine forever – but we need all NHS staff, patients and the public to recognise and embrace its huge potential. Genomic medicine has huge implications for the understanding and treatment of rare diseases, cancer and infections,” Davies commented.

Davies likened the current genetic testing process in England to a cottage industry, with the system currently being based on a network of 25 regional laboratories alongside a multitude of smaller units.

The Chief medical Officer recommends the centralisation of all laboratories present within the existing system, effectively establishing a national network.

This new approach will then provide equal access to testing across England.

Within government, a new National Genomics Board would be initiated, with the intention of overseeing the expansion and development of genomic services, and particularly monitoring developments within the rapidly evolving technology.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt warmly welcomed the new report, noting that Britain had already become a world leader in genomics medicine.

“Tens of thousands of patients across the country have already benefited from quicker diagnosis, precise treatment and care, and we will support the NHS to continue its relentless drive to push the boundaries of modern science.”

 

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