Genetic code sequencing for cancer patients

  • Posted

Posted 12/12/2012

The Government has announced it is setting aside £100m to enable up to 100,000 cancer patients to have their entire genetic code sequenced. This should give doctors a far better and more detailed understanding of each patient’s genetic make up and of their treatment needs. The ultimate hope is that this will help the development of new and far more effective cancer treatments.

For some time it has been recognised that individual patients respond differently to treatment, with some having far better outcomes than others. It is hoped that comparing the genetic profiles of large numbers of patients will give a far better understanding of why this happens and will then result in new and far more effective treatments. The ultimate goal that has been talked about is the ability to have treatments for each individual patient based on their unique genome sequence, targeting treatment for the individual patient’s form of the disease and their ability to fight this.

Sequencing the genetic code produces a huge amount of data which it is anticipated would allow scientists to understand the mechanism of disease, treatment and patient response far better with the ambition that this will inform much more effective treatment in the future.  

Trefine Maynard, a medical injury solicitor at Ashtons Legal, says: “The cost of sequencing the genetic codes of individuals has been falling fast but even so it currently costs between £5,000 and £10,000 per person which is why no country anywhere has yet set up a programme of mass DNA mapping. The cost is however reducing all the time. This project announced by the Government is enormously exciting. Some of the most heart breaking work that my colleagues and I do is related to delay in the diagnosis of cancer. We are left feeling so helpless as all too often the failures in care mean that our clients face an uncertain future and also have to face what are frequently very difficult issues in looking at how a delay may have affected their future prospects. 

It makes us all the more aware of how vital it is to address this awful disease and develop new and ever more effective treatments. We can only ever offer our clients the opportunity to investigate the medical care they were given and how this may have affected their prognosis and, should we succeed in a legal case, achieve a financial award of damages intended to compensate them. I hope with all my heart that we will start to see the dawn of ground breaking treatments for cancer in the near future so that a diagnosis will no longer bring with it such fear and dread.”

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