Brain tumour genetics to affect treatment decisions

2 min read

A study, the biggest of its kind, published in Nature Magazine, has found that analysing the entire genetic code of cancer patients can help deliver treatments that work better for the individual. The analysis of someone's entire genetic code – all 3.2 billion letters that make up their DNA – is known as whole-genome sequencing (WGS).

Combining clinical data and DNA evidence meant care could be tailored and it was found that most brain tumours had genetics that affected treatment decisions.

Based on the results, some were given different drugs or avoided ones likely to cause them side effects.

The study, led by Genomics England, NHS England, Queen Mary University of London, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Westminster and completed in 2018, analysed data covering over 30 types of solid tumours has been declared "an important milestone in genomic medicine" which “opens tremendous opportunities for precision oncology”.

WGS and the issues surrounding tissue storage to ensure maximal scientific, clinical and diagnostic usage are an issue of keen interest to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours (APPGBT).

Professor of Neuropathology Kathreena Kurian, who will be presenting on WGS to the next meeting of the APPGBT, said: “When it comes to the treatment of brain tumour patients to understand what won’t work is as important as what will work and that is the nature and advantage of precision oncology.

“This feels like a milestone en route to genomic medicine being a cornerstone of brain cancer care and demonstrates the importance of WGS for all cancer patients no matter where who they are or where they live.

“The challenge will be for therapeutic development to match genomic understanding so we can take this better understanding into more clinical trials.”

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