Top Chief Medical Officer advocates routine DNA testing on the NHS

One of England’s top Chief Medical Officers has called for DNA testing to become standard routine on the NHS in order to improve patient care. Professor Dame Sally Davies has stated she wants to see whole genome screening (WGS) utilised in a manner akin to blood testing or biopsies so that treatments can be personalised and unnecessary therapies avoided by patients.

“I want the NHS across the whole breadth to be offering genomic medicine – that means diagnosis of our genes – to patients where they can possibly benefit,” her annual report reads.

Where failures in one or more of the body’s 20,000 genes cause disorders and illnesses, WGS, a procedure that costs £700 procedure, can help identify the failures by cross-referencing tumour samples with normal DNA samples and help personalise and improve treatment in around two-thirds of cases. Meaning that adequate therapies can be designated based on genetic profile, and the treatments which provide no benefit can be avoided thereby preventing potentially harmful side-effects.

According to Davies, the areas where this could be most beneficial are cancer, rare disease and infection, whilst also helping speed diagnosis times. Patients could then have this data stored securely by the NHS, preserving their privacy. More than 31,000 have already had their entire genetic code sequenced and stored.

Davies noted that this all must be delivered in the next five years, but also described the current environment as a “cottage industry”; currently, WGS is performed at one of 25 regional laboratories through England, but centralised labs could make this a reality in the future.

Source – Pharmafile

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