UK Patients Begin Personalised Cancer Treatment after Gene Test
Around 1,000 UK cancer patients will undergo a multi-gene cancer test, for the first time, which will enable the development of personalised cancer therapies.
These cancer patients, who joined Cancer Research UK’s Stratified Medicine Programme, will be part of about 9,000 consenting individuals with six tumour types; lung, prostate, breast, colorectal, ovary and metastatic melanoma. This pilot programme was launched in late 2010 by Cancer Research UK who wanted to analyse a variety of cancer patients’ tumours for genetic defects that could help doctors choose the most effective therapy for an individual patient in the long-term, depending on their inherent make up.
Other expected systematic benefits of this molecular diagnostic testing scheme for cancer include a national database which contains specific cohort datasets, as created by joint genetic and clinical data sources. It would also lead to better cost savings, more targeted drugs as well as the possibility of avoiding the prospect of treating the side effects of medication.
A US study on a smaller scale with 66 women, has already demonstrated that a cancer gene test could lead to preventative treatment for individuals at a high risk of breast cancer.
Lead researcher professor Seema Khan at Northwestern University in Chicago said, “We now have the possibility of predicting if a preventive drug will work for a woman at high risk of breast cancer, so that we don't expose women to the risks and side effects of this drug if it won't help them. Identifying these genes also gives us a target for new therapies. Once we understand what regulates these genes, we can try to develop a therapy to switch them off.”
Additionally, Professor Sandra O’Toole, spokesperson for the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA) andauthor of an earlier Australian study on mutation testing in lung cancer, also highlights the support for multi-gene cancer testing, “We found that nearly 10% of patients' tumours had more than one mutation, which could potentially affect the positive response to targeted therapeutics for cancer patients with early stage disease, and these changes would be missed using current standard mutation testing looking at a single gene only.
The correct personalised treatment can extend the life expectancy of some cancer sufferers. I would estimate that around 10-15% of all patients with lung cancer could see dramatic results in response to these drugs. Although not without side effects, personalised treatment offers a major improvement from non-targeted chemotherapy, as it targets the specific gene as opposed to the body's entire system.”
While further study on multi-gene testing in cancer and other disease areas is still needed, this development gives the healthcare industry an insight into the future of personalised medicine. Patients will have improved health outcomes as researchers target specific genes rather than the individual’s bodily structure.
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