UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a ‘pioneering partnership’ between Genomics England
, the new NHS-owned company established to deliver the 100,000 Genomes Project (see previous news
) and the major charity Cancer Research UK
The partnership involves the sequencing of the genomes of 3,000 cancer patients along with the full genomes of their tumours; cancer cells typically differ from the other cells in a person’s body by virtue of having accumulated certain mutations. Knowing which mutations are present in a tumour can help to inform prognosis and management of patients and identify the most appropriate treatment. For example, many new cancer drugs target specific genetic features of tumour sub-types.
The news was released as part of an announcement of a government pledge to provide an additional £400 million funding for the Cancer Drugs Fund, which pays for cancer patients to receive treatments not yet approved for use in the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE
CRUK Chief Executive Dr Harpal Kumar said: “Our partnership with Genomics England builds on our research testing genetic changes in tumours to understand cancer in all its intricate detail. This rapidly-changing research field lays the foundations for even faster progress, saving many more lives from this devastating disease”.
Comment: The Prime Minister is said to want Britain ‘to lead the world in unlocking the power of DNA data’ and the Government aims for it to become the first country in the world to sequence 100,000 human genomes, within the next five years; other countries have related ambitions (see previous news). Britain has a potential strategic advantage in the development and delivery of genomic medicine in the form of the single public nationalised health service system, and the 100,000 Genomes Project has been seen by many as a crucial first step towards this. However, there are many potential obstacles that will need to be addressed for a successful move of genome sequencing from research into the clinical context; the PHG Foundation’s Realising Genomics project is working to answer these issues.