06 July 2018

DNA 'barcode' can revolutionise breast cancer treatment

Sequencing tumours allows scientists to use the results for personalised treatment.

A new development in breast cancer treatment will soon allow doctors to create a personalised DNA "barcode".

According to the BBC, scientists from Cambridge are making advances in genetics that would revolutionise treatment. Essentially, doctors would send a sample of a tumour for sequencing and use the results for personalised treatment. 

Three benefits

Scientists are saying the mapping will have three main benefits. It will:

  • Help doctors choose the best treatment
  • Predict whether patients will suffer side-effects (and how severe)
  • Reveal if the patients is becoming resistant to treatment

Prof Richard Gilbertson, director of the CRUK Major Cancer Centre at Cambridge University said the programme is ground-breaking.

"By sequencing the entire tumour genome of women with breast cancer in our clinic and integrating this extensive data with other biological and clinical observations, we will assign patients to optimal therapy, changing the way we treat breast cancer forever," he said in a university news release. 

Individualised treatment

Prof Carlos Caldas, project lead at Cancer Research UK says they hope that this project will accelerate progress in developing personalised treatment.

“We already know that there are around 10 different types of breast cancer, as we reported in 2012, and these respond differently to the available treatments. We’re looking at ways to predict this response ensuring individual patients get the best treatment for them." 

What is DNA sequencing? 

DNA sequencing is the process of determining the order of the four chemical building blocks – called "bases" – that make up the DNA molecule. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute "the sequence tells scientists the kind of genetic information that is carried in a particular DNA segment". 

The human genome contains about three billion base pairs that spell out the instructions for making and maintaining a human being.

Image credit: iStock


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