Thousands of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital cancer patients to be approached to take part in major genetics project

Anglia DNA MD Dr Thomas Haizel in the company's laboratory at Norwich Research Park. Photo: Steve Ad

Anglia DNA MD Dr Thomas Haizel in the company's laboratory at Norwich Research Park. Photo: Steve Adams

Thousands of cancer patients in the region will be asked to take part in a radical genetics project which scientists claim could revolutionise the way the disease is treated.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has been chosen as one of the first hubs across the country where cancer patients will be asked to have their DNA mapped.

Over the next three years the hospital, which diagnoses about 5,000 cancer patients each year, will invite 2,500 patients with certain types of cancer to allow their tumours, and some of their healthy tissue, to be genetically analysed.

NNUH medical director, Professor Krishna Sethia said: 'In Norwich we already have significant experience in this field so it is exciting to be contributing to this important national study. We all hope that this project will result in better treatment and outcomes for all our patients'.

It is part of the 100,000 Genomes Project, a plan to map 100,000 complete genetic codes of patients nationally.


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Norfolk MP and life sciences minister George Freeman, who is responsible for the project, said that too often Britain had led the world in medical breakthroughs, but they were commercialised overseas and took too long to get to NHS patients.

'The Genomics England initiative will make the UK the first country on earth to sequence the entire genome of 100,000 patients and integrate information with the NHS's 50 year drug and disease histories to allow us to understand how and why different patient groups get certain diseases, and respond in different ways to different drugs.

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He added: 'I am delighted that Norwich has been designated a hub for patient volunteer recruitment and would encourage anybody with any family history of cancer or rare disease to contact their doctor and find out how they can get involved.'

Combining information from DNA samples with patients' health records will improve the prediction and prevention of cancers and rare diseases, experts believe.

Although strict security measures are in place to protect the identity and private details of patients, universities and drug companies will be allowed to use the data for research. Information that has a bearing on treatment will be offered to patients if they want it, but not uncertain risk assessments such as the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's.

What do you think of this research project? Write (giving your full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk

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