Brain cancer patients are starting to benefit from new personalized treatment using DNA sequencing, the NHS has said.
Patients with glioblastoma, the most aggressive and deadly form of brain tumors, are offered a more detailed diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan based on genetic sequencing results, processed within 10 days.
Patients at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge were the first in the UK to experience the treatment.
Professor Richard Mair, a consultant neurosurgeon at the hospital who directs the program, described the treatment as a “paradigm shift”.
Speaking to BBC News, he said: “I think that really gives us hope for the patient.
“What we’re really doing is a paradigm shift in how we both diagnose and potentially treat these patients.”
He added that brain tumor treatment was underfunded until Cancer Research UK classified it as a cancer of unmet need and Minderoo, the NHS’ partners in the precision tumors programme, were helping to increase funding.
Prof Mair said: “I think there is a fundamental shift and we are seeing brain cancer being taken more seriously as an entity.
“I think that nihilism that we saw maybe five to ten years ago isn’t there anymore.
“We realized that with the advent of gene sequencing and with the advent of targeted therapies, there is an opportunity to really improve not only the prognosis but also the cure rate for these cancers.”
Treatment involves examining DNA sequencing – the genetic code of the cancer cells – and RNA sequencing to study how the cancer cells behave.
This gives surgeons a clearer idea of what subtype the cancer is and how best to treat it.
The Minderoo Precision Brain Tumor Program is leading the work along with Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission, the NHS East Genomics Laboratory Hub, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Center at the University of Cambridge and Illumina.