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Call for routine DNA test to be offered to all cancer patients

The annual report by Prof Dame Sally Davies says that the genomic plan should be implemented within 5 years in the NHS

There are about 31,000 cancer patients that have already had their full genome sequenced. Dame Sally wants whole genome sequencing (WGS) to be offered routinely to all cancer patients within five years to help doctors select the best treatments.

Tiny errors within the 20,000 human genes can lead to cancers and illness.

Whole gene sequencing costs about £700 but Dame Sally has urged that it not be ruled out due to cost. In about 67% of patients the information gained from the WGS can often lead to better diagnosis and treatment.

With the information provided from WGS doctors are able to tailor the treatments and care according to each individual. Doctors can even prevent patients from taking drugs that could be ineffective and cause adverse side-effects

“I want the NHS across the whole breadth to be offering genomic medicine – that means diagnosis of our genes – to patients where they can possibly benefit,” Dame Sally’s report says.

Dame Sally wants to set up a national network and centralize the service to ensure that there is equal access to testing for all areas of the UK. But one hurdle could be doctors who do not want to move from a local to national service.

Phil Booth, from MedConfidential, said this move had “huge potential” for patients and the NHS, but there were “great risks with large collections of sensitive data” and that “Every single use of patient data must be consensual, safe and transparent”.

Despite the challenges this initiative could offer more accurate diagnosis and better treatment options to those living with cancer in the UK.