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UK to give cancer patients genetic analysis just like Angelina Jolie

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A new development is most remarkable in light of the fact that the United Kingdom's health care is chiefly part of the taxpayer-funded National Health Service. Britain has announced a program that would let all cancer patients to have the same genetic analysis that led Hollywood star Angelina Jolie to decide to undergo a double mastectomy.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The project involves the Institute of Cancer Research in London, the U.S. gene sequencing firm Illumina and geneticists and cancer doctors. They all aim to find a way to allow more cancer genes be tested in more people.

The $4 million project, funded by the Wellcome Trust medical charity, denies that this is in response to Jolie's decision to undergo surgery to reduce her breast cancer risk.

"What we're trying to do here is develop processes that will allow comprehensive and systematic use of genetic information in cancer medicine so that (more people) will be able to benefit from the types of information and situations we were hearing about last week (with the Jolie story)," head of genetics at the ICR Nazneen Rahman says.

Mutations in some genes, known as cancer predisposition genes, greatly increase the risk that a person will get cancer. Angelina Jolie tested positive for a high risk gene mutation that made her about five times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not carry this mutation.

There are nearly 100 other known gene mutations, but in Britain, testing for cancer predisposition genes in Britain is currently restricted.

Recent advances in reading the genetic code, known as gene sequencing, mean that looking for gene mutations is now faster and cheaper than ever. This would eventually pave the way for gene testing eventually to become routine for all cancer patients.

"It is very important to know if a mutation in a person's genetic blueprint has caused their cancer," Rahman told reporters at a briefing in London.

"It allows more personalized treatment, so for example such people are often at risk of getting another cancer and may choose to have more comprehensive surgery, or may need different medicines, or extra monitoring."

Called Mainstreaming Cancer Genetics, the program will use a new Illumina test called TruSight that can analyze 97 cancer predisposition genes within a few weeks for a few hundred pounds.

The new model will be piloted initially in women with breast or ovarian cancer at London's Royal Marsden hospital. It's hoped that the process in the future will be used across the country and in many more types of cancer.

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