A new collaborative project to examine genetic cancer screening is underway in the UK.
Led by the charity Cancer Research UK in partnership with the National Health Service, governmental Technology Strategy Board, and companies Pfizer, AstraZeneca and PA Consulting, the Stratified Medicine Programme aims to create a standardised national service for genetic testing of tumours.
The first phase of the project (2011-13) will store clinical data from 9,000 patients with breast, bowel, lung, prostate, ovary and skin cancers along with the results of genetic analysis of their tumours performed in three technology hubs. Although this information will not inform the care of these patients, it is hoped that it will drive research that could help tailor treatment for future patients.
In the second phase of the project, the intention is to expand the scheme across the whole of the UK, widen the number of cancers tested, and create the basis of a ‘national standardised, high quality and cost effective genetic testing service and a research database that continues to grow and inform research’. Ultimately, it is hoped that this could form the basis of a national system of personalised cancer care.
Comment: This is one of many recent initiatives to develop and strengthen Stratified Medicine in UK. Despite the recent great advances in molecular characterisation of diseases, there is still little progress in translating this knowledge into clinical practice and in developing a personalised approach to healthcare. This project is an excellent opportunity to conduct valuable research whilst simultaneously moving towards a system that can accommodate the routine use of genomic analysis in oncology. However, further detailed work will be required to identify and overcome the obstacles and barriers to the implementation of stratified medicine, such as the need for systems to evaluate, compare and fund different genetic tests and to create a supportive environment for its translation into practice.