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Genomics hope for fight against cancer

A NEW era of genome-based personalised medicine could open up for cancer patients within five years under new plans unveiled by the UK’s chief medical officer.

The ‘genomics dream’ would see millions of patients having all their DNA tested as genome sequencing becomes as routine as MRI or CT scans, said Professor Dame Sally Davies.

Ultimately, the goal is for every cancer patient to have his or her whole genome sequenced, making the procedure as standard as blood tests and biopsies.

Research suggests that in 60 per cent of cases, the genomes of cancer patients reveal ‘actionable’ data — personal mutations that can shape future treatment.

Dame Sally said: ‘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 for ever — 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.’

Currently, genetic testing of NHS patients in England operates like a ‘cottage industry’, said Dame Sally. Tens of thousands of NHS patients have already had their DNA mapped, but her report aims to multiply the numbers many times over.