Cancer Research UK begins DNA matching research

The study will not alter patients' existing treatment.

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About 9,000 cancer patients are being asked take part in new gene tests which could improve therapies.

Samples from tumours will be tested for gene faults, and testing laboratories in London, Cardiff and Birmingham will compare the outcome of treatments.

Cancer Research UK will ask the patients to take part in the first phase of the project.

Prof Malcolm Mason, of the Cardiff Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, called it an exciting initiative.

The study will not alter patients' existing treatment.

Cancer Research said the ultimate aim was to create a world-class genetic testing service for NHS cancer patients in the UK.

The researchers said that as new targeted drugs and other therapies became available they would have the information needed to match them to patients.

Patient consent

Patients with six different types of cancer will be asked to take part: breast, bowel, lung, prostate, ovary and melanoma skin cancer.

Case study

Jeff Thomas

Jeff Thomas, a 55-year-old father-of-three from Cardiff, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in September, and underwent surgery this month.

"I was keen to take part in the Stratified Medicine Programme to help patients in the future.

Anything that I can do to help develop new treatments is very worthwhile.

Being diagnosed with cancer was a terrible shock, and it is incredible to think that my tumour could now be used to develop more targeted drugs in future.

Even though I won't benefit from that research, it's comforting to think that my experience with cancer will be helping others".

Seven Cancer Research UK Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs) are involved in the project, and patients will be asked to give their consent for samples to be taken from their tumours.

NHS genetic testing labs in London, Cardiff and Birmingham will then extract DNA from the samples and look for a range of molecular faults linked to cancer.

The results will be kept alongside a range of other clinical information, such as patients' drug regimes, to find the best treatments for specific faults.

The research will have a significant Welsh element. Patients will be recruited from five Welsh hospitals or trusts of the 20 in total: including University Hospital of Wales and Velindre NHS Trust in Cardiff, Morriston Hospital and Singleton Hospital in Swansea, and Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport.

Prof Malcolm Mason, lead researcher at the Cardiff ECMC, said: "This will play a key part in making targeted treatments available for cancer patients across the UK.

Genetic basis

"We are extremely grateful to all these patients who, by contributing to this research, are allowing us to take great strides towards beating cancer," he added.

James Peach, director of Cancer Research UK's Stratified Medicine Programme, said: "In the 10 years since the Human Genome Project was completed we've made huge progress in unravelling the genetic basis of cancer.

"We know that prescribing treatment according to the genetic basis of a tumour greatly improves the chances of successful treatment," said Mr Peach.

"This programme marks the beginning of the journey, and there is much to be done before we can bring the benefits of personalised medicine to every cancer patient," he continued.

"I'm confident that within the next few years we'll see personalised medicine changing the face of cancer treatment and saving many more lives."

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