Barts Health NHS Trust is among six London hospital trusts who have come together to launch a pioneering study using patient genetics (DNA) to create personalised treatment for people with cancer and rare diseases.
Many patients with these conditions across the Trust’s six east London hospitals will be offered the opportunity to provide blood samples for genetic analysis. Their information will be used as part of the Prime Minister’s 100,000 genome project, which aims to position the UK as the first country in the world to sequence 100,000 whole human genomes.
By looking at this data on such a huge scale to reveal common conditions and symptoms that could be associated with particular human DNA, it is hoped that the study will help explain why someone may respond to treatment, while another may not.
It is believed that the strong ethnic diversity of patients in east London – where the Trust’s six hospitals are based – will prove particularly useful in the project’s findings.
The five other trusts involved in the North Thames Genomics Medicine Centre, being led by Great Ormond Street Hospital, are London North West Healthcare, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust and University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH).
DNA from patients at Barts Health will account for a third of the cancer samples collected by the consortium, and some patients with rare genetic disorders will also be invited to be part of the study. As one of the largest providers of patients, information from the consortium will eventually make up one fifth of the total number of patients in the 100,000 genome project.
Professor Finbarr Cotter, Clinical director for Pathology at Barts Health NHS Trust, is co-ordinating the project at the Trust. He explained: “This is a great opportunity to revolutionise the care of our patients, which I believe will be followed across the world. From this project, we will start to unravel the real basis of cancer and rare diseases, and begin to use advance DNA analysis to improve the diagnosis and treatment options for patients.
“We are looking at a groundbreaking NHS project for NHS patients with great vision, which will deliver benefits far beyond what we have ever even been able to think about. I am absolutely delighted.
“Our involvement places Barts Health, along with all the consortium hospitals, at the forefront of the DNA revolution in medicine. We are already leaders of molecular medicine and pathology, having particularly invested heavily in fantastic technology at the new The Royal London Hospital. I am delighted at this recognition for our work as being of vital importance to the modernisation of British medicine.”
A genome is a complete DNA sequence for the full set of genes, which can tell clinicians much about a patient’s health, such as when looking at inherited diseases. However, other factors influence what will happen to a person, including environmental factors, previous illness and medications taken. The NHS can provide essential information about a person through their medical records to help complete the picture.
Professor Lyn Chitty, the clinical lead for North Thames Genomic Medicine Centre and the North Thames Clinical Research Network, said: “This is a really exciting project and offers a great opportunity. We hope that by doing whole genome sequencing we will identify the underlying genetic cause for some rare diseases, as well as potentially highlighting new treatments for cancer patients through a better understanding of the cause of their disease.
“In the longer term, this is a project that stands to transform the NHS. Ultimately, if we can make it affordable and efficient enough, whole genome sequencing could be used as one of the first lines of investigation to help clinicians diagnose diseases more quickly and without the need for numerous other tests, as well as identifying the most appropriate treatment.”
Source: Barts Health NHS Trust