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UK Pilots Program that Will Allow Cancer Patients to Receive Information on Nearly 100 Genes

Update Date: May 20, 2013 02:31 PM EDT
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A health trust in the United Kingdom is piloting a new program that will allow all patients with cancer to have access to the same genetic information that actress Angelina Jolie had. Using the genetic sequencing firm Illumina, the test will provide information about 97 genes that influence the risk of cancer.

According to Bloomberg, the Illumina Trusight test will be available to Royal Marsden hospitals in London and in Sutton in 2014. It is possible that the test could be expanded to the entirety of the country's National Health Service. The test is considered to be more affordable than other options, costing hundreds of dollars. Meanwhile, Myriad Genetics' BRCA tests cost $4,000 for the most comprehensive version, because the company holds a controversial patent on the gene. That patent is currently being contested in the United States' Supreme Court, though it was upheld in a court case tried in Australia.

BBC reports that 2 percent of all cancers are caused by genetic mutations. However, that number varies by cancer. For ovarian cancers, for example, 15 percent are caused by genes.

The tests will allow patients to know about additional risk for various cancers. It should also lead to personalized treatment; for example, a person's genes may allow them to be more predisposed to certain medications over others, or may dictate the type of surgery that doctors may suggest. For example, if a person's genes suggest that they would have a high risk of bowel cancer and the disease would most likely return, doctors may remove a larger section of the bowel than just the portion that contains the tumor. Knowing about their genetic makeup could also lead family members to be tested as well.

However, because the program is so new, experts are not yet certain about the downsides, like how families may react to all of the new information.

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