A DNA ‘barcoding’ programme transforming breast cancer treatment started in Oxford this Monday.
The first patient was seen at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital this week.
This project delivers data faster, being reduced from several months to weeks, increasing the chances to find the right treatment faster.
The Personalised Breast Cancer Programme (PBCP) reads each patient’s DNA and RNA like a barcode.
Readouts of their tumour cells are then compared with those of their healthy cells to study what is causing the disease and which weaknesses could be targeted with a cancer treatment.
Professor Jean Abraham, who leads the PBCP, commented: “The beauty of this sequencing project is we get the data faster and can act on it.
“We have done this for research purposes before, but it took many months, and the results weren’t available for patients in a meaningful timeline.”
He added that on average the timeframe is between six to 12 weeks between receiving the sample and returning the result to the patient’s clinic.
The programme can also identify whether the patient has any inherited genetic faults that increase risk of breast cancer or could cause toxic side effects to chemotherapy.
Professor Abraham added: ““The benefits are various and depend on the stage.
“A lot of patients won’t see their treatment plan change, but it might offer hope and faster access to the most appropriate treatment, if there’s a relapse.
“We will have a better idea of what to do at that stage, it becomes an armoury of knowledge, we know the weakness we can target.”
This follows a successful programme in Cambridge, which started in November 2016.
Almost 850 patients enrolled in the study, 250 of them where part of the Addenbrooke’s breast cancer unit and became the first cancer patients to have whole genome sequencing of their tumour.
Many of them confirmed they were receiving the right treatment whilst over a third had a change in clinical management.
Ten further sites are planned to open across the country by the end of 2022.
This programme is funded by Cancer Research UK and US-based philanthropic organisation The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research.
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