Hospital project helps deliver tailor-made cancer treatments

Matt Keeling, NNUH cancer manager. Photo: Kieron Tovell

Matt Keeling, NNUH cancer manager. Photo: Kieron Tovell - Credit: Kieron Tovell

More than 500 people have joined a groundbreaking project at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) to help develop tailor-made treatments.

The world-leading 100,000 Genomes Project was launched two years ago to sequence 100,000 complete sets of DNA from patients with cancer and rare diseases.

Almost 350 cancer patients at the NNUH have so far opted for their blood and tissue samples to be sequenced as part of the nationwide scheme, which will help to develop new clinical trials and targeted treatments for a range of cancers. More than 200 participants have also been recruited to the rare diseases part of the project.

The NNUH started recruiting patients with colon, kidney, testicular and ovarian cancers when the project launched in 2016.

Matt Keeling, cancer manager at the trust, said the initiative had been extended to include head and neck, skin, prostate, breast, endometrial and blood cancers.

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He said: 'For the last 50 years we have been diagnosing cancers under the microscope and the future of cancer diagnostics will be through sequencing DNA. Cancer starts with a mutation in our genetic make-up, which triggers an uncontrolled growth of cells. If we can identify where the mutation has occurred in the DNA makeup, we can tailor a treatment that is known to be successful with that cancer.

'There is nothing else like this in the world. With some cancers such as colorectal and some lung and skin cancers we already have targeted treatments because patients have a specific mutation in their DNA.'

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The NNUH is one of the country's biggest cancer centres and diagnoses almost 2pc of all cancers in the UK.

Sequencing patients' genomes provides a more accurate diagnosis for a range of cancer types. It can be used to show how a cancer may evolve and change over time, predict potential future health issues for patients, as well as identify treatments to which a patient will best respond.

Being able to understand a patient's DNA barcode allows for personalised treatment, which will help to increase survival rates and improve the quality of life for NHS patients.

More than 60,000 genomes have so far been sequenced as part of 100,000 Genomes Project nationwide. For more information, visit

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