Matching cancers with drugs
London – Cancer Research UK has begun recruiting patients in the first phase of its Stratified Medicine Programme, which is aimed at finding cancer biomarkers and establishing a genetic testing service in the UK. The charity’s multi-million pound programme ultimately hopes to establish a world-class National Health Service (NHS) genetic testing service for cancer patients in Britain.
The first phase will see the screening of tumour samples from up to 9,000 patients who have melanoma, breast, bowel, lung, prostate or ovarian cancer. It is to be funded by a £5.5m (€6.5m)contribution from the charity and its partners in industry – AstraZeneca and Pfizer. Patients will be asked to consent to allow a small sample of their tumour be sent to one of three leading NHS genetic testing labs. These are based at the Institute for Cancer Research in London, in Cardiff at the All Wales Regional Molecular Genetics Laboratory and at the West Midlands Regional Genetics Laboratory in Birmingham. There, researchers will extract the DNA from the sample and analyse it for a range of molecular variations linked to cancer.
The first phase is destined for completion in 2013. The initiative is closely aligned with the government-run Technology Strategy Board’s £6m (€7m) investment in the development of tests for analysing a tumour’s genetic profile, and its creation of secure software that can link this information to relevant clinical information. During the second phase, the charity plans to work with the UK Department of Health to develop a national system of genetic testing within the NHS. Cancer Research UK announced the plans for the programme last year.