Three cancer patients at King’s College Hospital are among the first eight in the country to have their DNA sequenced as part of Government’s ‘100,000 Genomes Project’.
King’s is one of a select group of hospitals taking part in the project, which involves collecting blood and cancer samples from some patients and their relatives to help increase understanding of certain cancers and rare diseases. The ultimate aim of the project is to develop more targeted treatments, which are tailored to the individual patient.
At present, cancer patients are largely treated with the same drugs, which work for some but not for others. By using genetic sequencing, clinicians will be able to separate people with similar diseases into much narrower groups and target treatment based on their genetic code.
Dr Guy Chung-Faye, Consultant Gastroenterologist at King’s, whose patients are among the first to have their DNA sequenced for the project, said, “Although the first complete human genome sequence was published 15 years ago, with the introduction of the 100,000 Genome Project we are now testing on a much larger scale, and in the future we aim to make this part of routine cancer care.
“By drilling down to a patient’s individual DNA code, we can start to pinpoint the mutations that caused the cancer. Over time, this will lead to the development of precision treatments, which will revolutionise cancer care.”
Farzin Farzaneh from Dulwich was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2015. He decided to have his DNA sequenced to help future generations. Talking about his involvement in the project he said, “I decided to have my DNA sequenced as I felt it was important to help develop a more thorough understanding of this cancer in general and my own cancer in particular. I know the information provided by sequencing the DNA in my tumour may help to optimize my own treatment if it comes back.
“More importantly, the information obtained could help identify whether my children will be at greater than average risk of developing cancer. If this happens to be the case, they could then be monitored more closely, and early detection would offer them more effective treatment options.
“The information obtained by the 100,000 genome project may turn out to be of direct benefit to me and to my children, and to help create a legacy for generations to come.”
The genome is the genetic code in DNA. It contains the information for about 20,000 genes. People inherit a copy of the genome from each parent and it contains the information needed to make every part of the body. The small differences in genomes are what make people unique.
The 100,000 Genomes Project is being carried out on a scale not seen before anywhere else in the world. It aims to decode 100,000 human genomes in order to create a new genomic medicine service in the NHS to enhance our understanding of diseases, and potentially change the way we treat patients.