Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 6th 2017 Contents B18 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Thursday, July 6, 2017
Cancer patients should be routinely offered
DNA tests to help select the best treatments for
them, according to England's chief medical of-
Prof Dame Sally Davies says in her annual report
that the UK's National Health Service (NHS) must
deliver her "genomic dream" within five years.
Over 31,000 NHS patients, including some with
cancer, have already had their entire genetic code
Dame Sally wants whole genome sequencing (WGS)
to become as standard as blood tests and biopsies.
Humans have about 20,000 genes---bits of DNA
code or instructions that control how our bodies work.
Tiny errors in this code can lead to cancer and other
illnesses. Sometimes these mistakes are inherited
from a parent, but most of the time they happen in
previously healthy cells.
Whole Genome Sequencing---which costs about
£700 in the UK---can reveal these errors by comparing
tumour and normal DNA samples from the patient.
Dame Sally says that in about two-thirds of cases,
this information can then improve their diagnosis and
care. Doctors can tailor treatments to the individual,
picking the drugs mostly likely to be effective.
And WGS can also show which patients are unlikely
to benefit, so they can avoid having unnecessary drugs
and unpleasant side effects.
Dame Sally wants DNA testing to become stand-
ard across cancer care, as well as some other areas
of medicine, including rare diseases and infections.
"I want the NHS across the whole breadth to be
offering genomic medicine---that means diagnosis
of our genes---to patients where they can possibly
benefit," her report says.
People with rare diseases could benefit from having
greater access to the technology, speeding up diag-
Doctors are already using genetic tests to identify
and better treat different strains of the infectious
Dame Sally said patients could be assured that their
genetic data would be stored securely and "de-iden-
tified" so that their privacy would be protected.
Currently, genetic testing of NHS patients in Eng-
land is done at 25 regional laboratories, as well as
some other small centres.
Dame Sally wants to centralise the service and set
up a national network to ensure equal access to the
testing across the country. A new National Genomics
Board would be set up in the UK, chaired by a min-
ister, to oversee the expansion and development of
Dame Sally said that a lot of money was being spent
because it was currently operating like a "cottage
. By having centralised laboratories, more
could be done with the money, including keeping up
with the latest technology, she said.
She said one hurdle could be doctors themselves,
who "don't like change", and she urged cancer service
patients to press their doctors to move from a local
to a national service.
She also said patients must understand they need-
ed to allow use of their data, alongside other data,
in order to get the best diagnosis, and therefore the
Phil Booth, from campaigning organisation Med-
Confidential, said this move had "huge potential"
for patients and the NHS, but there were "great risks
with large collections of sensitive data"
"Every single use of patient data must be consensu-
al, safe and transparent," he said. And patients should
be able to opt-out if they so wish. (Guardian UK)
UK chief medical officer calls
for gene testing revolution
Would you allow your genome to be sequenced, and the data stored by hospitals?
A UK medical officer says cancer patients should be routinely offered DNA tests
to help select the best treatments for them.
The Genomic Dream
Over 10 years ago, international scientists reached a
breakthrough in DNA work---sequencing the entire ge-
netic blueprint of man. The Human Genome Project meant
experts now had a catalogue of DNA code to explore
and refer to.
They began to understand which genes controlled which
processes in the body and how these could go wrong.
Doctors then started to "read" a patient's DNA to get a
better idea of what might be causing their symptoms
and how best to treat their illness.
Genomic medicine---tailoring care based on an individual's
unique genetic code---is now transforming the way people
are cared for in institutions in some countries, like the
UK's National Health Service.
Genes can predict if a woman with breast cancer might
respond to certain drugs, or whether radiotherapy is likely
to shrink a tumour, for example.
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