30 January 2013

DNA-based treatment offers cancer hope

Cancer will become an even more manageable disease within the next five to 10 years, a team of British scientists has predicted.


Cancer will become an even more manageable disease within the next five to 10 years, a team of British scientists has predicted.

Patients will soon have their tumour’s DNA (its genetic code) sequenced, which will enable doctors to develop highly personalised cancer treatments which could substantially increase a cancer patient’s life expectancy.

According to specialists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, this DNA sequencing technique could enable terminally ill patients, who can currently expect to live only months, to carry on for a decade or more in relatively good health.

Says Prof Alan Ashworth, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research: “We should be aspiring to cure cancer, but for people with advanced disease, it will be a question of managing them better so they survive for much longer – for many years. The new therapy will focus on personalised treatment with precision therapies that really attack the cancer but hopefully have fewer side effects.”

If a patient has breast cancer, for example, the DNA analysis of the tumour might reveal specific changes that match up with treatment usually reserved for a different kind of cancer. The resulting individualised treatment will ensure a far better outcome for the patient than more vague general treatment.

“Though personalised cancer medicine is still in its ‘early days’, the knowledge is accumulating incredibly rapidly and people are optimistic,” Ashworth says. "One would think in five or 10 years this will be absolutely routine practice for every cancer patient."

The Institute of Cancer Research will soon be launching a three-year, R42.6m project, called the Tumour Profiling Unit, to advance the genetic profile of cancer. It intends to build a DNA database to identify genes responsible for cancers.

Watch a short video excerpt of the Telegraph's interview with Prof Ashworth.

 - (Birgit Ottermann, Health24, January 2013)

Read more:

The DNA of breast cancer
Cancer and genetics


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