Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Why the Fight against Cancer Is Getting Personal ; the New Pounds 28.5m Manchester Cancer Research Centre, Due to Open Next Year, Is at the Forefront of the Fight against Cancer. Here, Its Director, Prof Nic Jones, Shares His Vision and Excitement for Cancer Research, Which Is Helping to Drive a Different Approach to Tackling the Disease - Personalised Medicine

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Why the Fight against Cancer Is Getting Personal ; the New Pounds 28.5m Manchester Cancer Research Centre, Due to Open Next Year, Is at the Forefront of the Fight against Cancer. Here, Its Director, Prof Nic Jones, Shares His Vision and Excitement for Cancer Research, Which Is Helping to Drive a Different Approach to Tackling the Disease - Personalised Medicine

Article excerpt

OUR genes define us and make us unique - for example, they dictate how tall we are likely to be, our skin colour and how sensitive our skin is to sunlight.

When specific genes are altered and the body fails to repair these mutations it can often cause disease and this is exactly what happens when people get cancer.

The precise combination and the exact nature of the changed genes involved control how the cancer behaves and makes each cancer unique.

These genes dictate how quickly the cancer will grow, how likely it is to spread and how sensitive it is to certain treatments, like drugs and radiotherapy. This is why cancer is such a complex condition and why it is proving so difficult to combat.

Most gene changes are not inherited but arise spontaneously and research has shown that these changes can be accelerated by our lifestyle and the environment - smoking accelerates the accumulation of changes in cells of the lung and exposure to sunlight causes changes in skin cells.

Despite the complexity there is good reason to be optimistic for the future. We are now in a new and unheralded era in cancer research - an era where we can identify the exact gene changes that have occurred in individual tumours and, as a result, provide tailored and personalised advice and treatment. We have made significant progress already towards personalised medicine in cancer, especially in certain cancer types, such as breast cancer. About 18 years ago, scientists discovered that changes in certain genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) increased the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

We now have standard genetic tests that identify women carrying these changes who are at higher risk of getting cancer and they can be offered earlier and more frequent screening for earlier diagnosis and treatment. Examples of personalised medicine are already used in the clinic.

The drug Herceptin, which was approved just seven years ago, is now a well-known treatment that has a specific genetic profile.

More recently, in November 2012, the drug Vemurafenib became available in the UK to treat melanoma that has a specific gene change. …

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