British scientists claim new treatments for cancer could eliminate unpleasant side effects and allow the personalisation of treatments. Prime Minister, David Cameron promised Britain would be the “world leader in genetic research” as he announced a £300 million project to map 100,000 complete DNA code sequences, which will transform the way we currently treat cancer and other rare diseases.
Currently, patients with most types of cancer will undergo chemotherapy, which kills cancer cells, preventing them from reproducing and spreading. The main problem is that many of the chemotherapy medications used also damage healthy cells such as skin cells and blood cells and have a poisonous effect on the body. For most people, chemotherapy is a difficult and unpleasant form of treatment and it can lead to side-effects such as feeling tired and weak, nausea and vomiting, as well as hair loss. Whilst not all patients will experience hair loss as a result of chemotherapy, many will lose their hair entirely, and it can take between 9 to 12 months to grow back.
These new treatments will be developed over the next four years and will allow treatments for cancer and other rare diseases to be personalised according to the type of cancer and the individual patient. Around 75,000 patients suffering from cancer and other rare diseases, as well as their close relatives, will have their genomes sequenced. The project will play a vital part in the development of new, personalised treatments that take genetics into account – this could revolutionise medicine as we know it!
Researchers involved in the project will look for tiny chances in the genetic code which could trigger disease. This genome sequencing will be pivotal in helping drug companies to create new medicines that can target tumours successfully, leaving healthy cells unharmed. It could mean an end to the unpleasant side-effects associated with chemotherapy, such as hair loss, and will ensure that treatments are more effective. Director of the Wellcome Trust, Professor Jeremy Farrar, commented, “We will look back in 20 years’ time and the blockbuster chemotherapy drugs that gave you all those nasty side-effects will be a thing of the past.”
World leader in genetic research
This is the largest project of its kind to date, and the eyes of the world will be on the UK, watching its progress on the 100,000 Genomes Project. David Cameron said, “This agreement will see the UK lead the world in genetic research within years. I am determined to do all I can to support the health and scientific sector to unlock the power of DNA, turning an important scientific breakthrough into something that will help deliver better tests, better drugs and above all better care for patients.”
The Prime Minister unveiled a £78 million partnership between California DNA sequencing firm Illumina and Genomics England, who will be overseeing the ground-breaking project. The genomes to be sequenced will be split evenly between rare diseases and cancers including breast, ovarian, lung, bowel and prostate cancer and leukaemia.
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