Genetic test given to cancer patients by NHS

Cancer patients will now be offered a new test to assist in deciding whether to continue with treatment, receive a lower does or use a different treatment altogether to tackle tumours.

Most patients who receive chemotherapy do not experience severe side effects, but there are some who suffer from vomiting, nauseam breathlessness, diarrhea and sever skin reactions when receiving certain drugs called fluoropyrimidines (5-FU and capecitabine).

The new blood test will detect a specific gene which indicates that someone is not able to break down chemotherapy drugs in their system. It is expected that 40% of those who have this specific gene will benefit from the test as they will then receive a lower dose or a different treatment altogether.

Professor Peter Johnson, NHS England National Clinical Director for Cancer, said: “Cancer survival rates are at a record high, but the condition still causes huge suffering for millions of patients and their loved ones every year.

“This test can help us to treat people with cancer as safely as possible, at what has been and continues to be an exceptionally a difficult time for millions of us.

“The number of people having their cancer care with the NHS is back to levels we saw before COVID-19, with nearly 350,000 having treatment since the first peak, and as the NHS continues to prioritise essential cancer care, this latest innovation is another important tool to ensure people in England get the best possible treatment.”

NHS Improvement and NHS England have dedicated increased funding so that more hospitals will be able to offer the tests to patients, as there are only a small number of hospitals currently giving the tests. The tests are part of the latest series of world-leading genomic discoveries and ground-breaking discoveries adopted by the NHS to personalize and improve cancer care across the UK.

Professor Dame Sue Hill, Chief Scientific Officer for England and Senior Responsible Officer for Genomics in NHS England said: “This announcement marks an important moment for how genomics can help tailor treatments to make them safer for patients with cancer.

“As our understanding of the role our DNA plays in disease grows, we will be able to use this approach to help develop personalised treatments for other conditions and embed genomics into routine care.”

John McGuire, 71, from London, was tested and it was discovered that he has a form of the gene and was given a lower dose of treatment.

John said: “I’m delighted with the treatment I have received from the team at Guy’s Hospital and have had little to no side-effects from my treatment. I’m nearly halfway through my treatment now and I think I am going to be really happy with the outcome.”

John’s medical team says he is progressing well and the treatment is aimed to cure his cancer.

Dr Simon Vincent, Director of Research, Support and Influencing at Breast Cancer Now said: “The national roll-out of this test is a welcome step towards ensuring that everyone being treated for cancer with chemotherapy is given the most appropriate, and kindest, treatment based on their genetic makeup.

“Fluoropyrimidines are used to treat some breast cancer tumours, and we look forward to this test being available to provide insight on the side effects of these drugs for certain women, so that they and their healthcare team can make the most informed decisions about their treatment.”

Article source: https://www.england.nhs.uk/2020/12/nhs-cancer-patients-genetic-test/


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