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Tumour 'barcodes' to speed cancer treatment

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NEW research could lead to the development of "personalised" cancer treatment, offering sufferers early diagnosis and better treatment, one of Britain's leading cancer scientists said yesterday.

The individual tests, which will examine the "barcodes" of tumours, could also lead to more cost-effective treatment if successful. The project will concentrate on cancer sufferers but eventually be extended to others in high-risk categories.

Professor Robert Brown, of Glasgow University, is leading the project, which could also identify patients who may particularly benefit from new treatments.

The joint study between the university and the US company Orion Genomics will use cutting-edge technology to study the building blocks of DNA. This will enable them to analyse specific markers in cell DNA, known as methylation, as signs of abnormal patterns, which often indicate cancerous cells. Researchers will compare these with normal cells in an effort to understand tumours better.

The project, which is backed by Cancer Research UK, will work with clinical trial groups to gather information for the detection and treatment of cancers of the lung, breast and ovary.

Prof Brown said: "This research has the potential to substantially change the way physicians first diagnose and later treat cancer patients.

"By analysing methylation of tumour cells it may be possible for doctors to choose the most appropriate form of treatment, thus helping to get more effective drugs into patients quicker and reducing the risk of time wasted on ineffective treatments.

"The methylation technologies may prove to be powerful in helping improve the outcome for cancer patients, particularly in clinical trials of novel agents."

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