Just over a week ago, BBC Two’s ‘Hospital’ shone  a light on the use of genetic testing to find out more information about the DNA of cancer patient’s tumours.

We saw baby Jaxon be tested to explore other avenues for treatments, rather than intrusive surgery. The young boy was being treated in one of thirteen centres that has been set up by the NHS, to focus on developing ‘understanding of the genetic causes of cancer and rare diseases’, with Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust leading the way, with support from other regional hospitals and centres. In a press release, the trust said;  “The centre has been part of the ambitious 100,000 Genomes Project, which finished not long after we filmed for Hospital in December,” [said Alistair]. “It’s been a really good collaboration between NHS partners. The broad aim is to now streamline a pathway for making genomic testing the routine approach when looking at cancers and rare diseases.”

So, what is the Genomes Project actually looking to understand?

Every healthy human cell, from the cells in our hair, to the cells in our heart, are made up of a complete set of genes and DNA, known as a genome. It was the aim of the project to collect 100,000 genomes from patients to analyse the ways in which personalised medicines could improve the care, treatments and subsequent outcomes for cancer patients.

Cancer is known for being deadly, but with over 350,000 diagnoses and 160,000 deaths, annually, in the UK alone, it is the ‘single biggest killer’ in this country. It is classed as a genomic disease, because it changes the make-up of the DNA, causing it to divide at an uncontrollable rate. It is therefore, the ability to compare the cancerous cells to the healthy cells that will allow researchers to understand the particular genomic changes that have occurred in that patient. Knowing this information, is what will help a clinician to prescribe the best treatment plan for each individual.

It was in December that the project had reached its target of collecting the 100,000 genomes and is now in the next stage of the project, aiming to effectively analyse and identify patterns occurring to cause specific genetic conditions; with these results, clinicians will be able to avoid using medicines and treatments that have more toxic side effects (for example, chemotherapy).

The 100,000 Genomes Project is going to be hugely influential in the coming years, with the results hopefully providing answers, that have been unknown for so long. Developing individual treatments for different patients could not only see a higher success rate, but also give the patients more control over their lives.

For more information and advice on the 100,000 Genomes Project, or cancer treatments, please visit the websites below.

https://www.genomicsengland.co.uk

http://www.nwcgmc.org

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cancer/

Catch up on Hospital on the iPlayer at:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0002jvt/hospital-series-4-episode-6

Image reference: www.geneticdisordersuk.org