The planned Tumour Profiling Unit at The Institute for Cancer Research (ICR), London will focus on sequencing the DNA of cancer tumours to help diagnose and
monitor different types of cancer, and to also identify those more likely to
respond to particular treatments. The ICR is raising £3.2 million to provide new
equipment and refurbished labs with a goal of providing DNA sequencing to every
Professor Alan Ashworth, chief executive of
the ICR, believes treatment for certain cancers, such as lung and pancreatic
cancer, needs a new approach. Traditional methods of radiation therapy and
chemotherapy have not been very successful for many people in treatment, but a
push into molecular investigation and treatment could be more effective for
'The idea of developing old-fashioned
chemotherapies is going out of the window', he said. 'Genome profiling opens up
the possibility of using drugs in a context in which they were not originally
Genetic sequencing is already used for the
treatment of some specific cancers. Women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer
are tested for a specific variant of the HER2 gene. If tested positive, the
patients would be given Herceptin. The same drug would be ineffective for those
negative for the HER2 gene variant. The new laboratory may give doctors the ability
to develop treatment programs that are tailored to the specific DNA mutations that
may drive a cancer at that particular point in time.
Professor Ashworth says that, 'understanding
how different cancers were caused by different genetic triggers was building
incredibly rapidly'. He believes that in five years we will have enough
information to start thinking about how to put the infrastructure into place so
all patients' tumours can be sequenced and personalised therapy provided on a
Beardmore of the Society and College of Radiographers describes personalised
cancer drugs as a 'fantastic' development, but added, 'we will still need other
treatments too, we won't replace them'.
Maher, chief medical officer at Macmillan Cancer Support, has said she believes the new
technology is very exciting but knowing when patients will feel these advances
is very hard to predict. There are other underlining issues such as overcoming
a tumour's ability to develop resistance.
Cancer Research UK says 430,000 people in the UK were diagnosed with
cancer in 2010.