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Whole genome mapping for cancer patients

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 10 December 2012

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The government has announced funding for wide-scale DNA mapping of patients with cancer and rare diseases.

This will make the England the first country in the world to introduce high-tech DNA mapping technology within a mainstream health system.

Up to 100,000 patients will have their entire genetic code sequenced with the Prime Minister set to announce £100m set aside for the project over a three to five year period.

It is hoped the scheme will lead to new cancer treatments based around patients’ specific genetic make-up. There are already a number of targeted treatments for breast, lung, bowel and blood cancers but whole genome mapping is likely to yield more personalised therapies.

So far it is unclear who will do the genome sequencing or which patients will be eligible.

Speaking ahead of the announcement David Cameron said: "Britain has often led the world in scientific breakthroughs and medical innovations, from the first CT scan and test-tube baby through to decoding DNA.

“By unlocking the power of DNA data, the NHS will lead the global race for better tests, better drugs and above all better care. We are turning an important scientific breakthrough into a potentially life-saving reality for NHS patients across the country.

“If we get this right, we could transform how we diagnose and treat our most complex diseases not only here but across the world, while enabling our best scientists to discover the next wonder drug or breakthrough technology.”

Chief medical officer for England, Prof Dame Sally Davies, said harassing genetic information offers “huge potential to target effective treatments and develop new treatments and cures”.

"Single gene testing is already available across the NHS ranging from diagnosing cancers to assessing patients' risk of suffering side effects from treatment.

"At the moment, these tests focus on diseases caused by changes in a single gene. This funding opens up the possibility of being able to look at the three billion DNA pieces in each of us so we can get a greater understanding of the complex relationship between our genes and lifestyle," she added.

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