New NHS centres to bring in era of DNA-medicine

The NHS will set up 11 centres to unlock the secrets of DNA and usher in a new era of "genomic medicine". The Genomics Medicine Centres – based in hospitals from Newcastle to Exeter, will focus on cancer and rare genetic diseases. Their challenge is to sequence 100,000 genomes within three years in order to develop new tests and drugs.
The NHS said it was aiming to be the most scientifically advanced healthcare system in the world. For cancer, the aim is to target treatment at the precise mutations in DNA that are causing a patient’s tumour. The genomes of healthy tissue and the tumour will be compared.
Previous genetics research has shown how different cancers can be – for example that breast cancer is not one disease but at least 10 – each with a different cause and life expectancy and each needing a different treatment. And the development of targeted drugs such as Herceptin, given only if a patient’s breast tumour has a certain mutation – has been possible because of genetics research.
Meanwhile, patients with rare diseases will have their genomes compared with those of their family members. Thousands of genetic diseases – which are individually rare but combined affect large numbers of people – could be identified by finding mistakes in the three billion pairs of letters that make up our genetic code.