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July 5, 2018

NHS will be first health service to offer routine DNA tests

NHS England will be the first health service in the world to routinely offer genomic medicine from 1 October 2018, enabling the analysis of patient DNA to help diagnose rare diseases, match patients to the most effective treatments, and reduce adverse drug reactions.

By Charlotte Edwards

NHS England will be the first health service in the world to routinely offer genomic medicine from 1 October 2018, enabling the analysis of patient DNA to help diagnose rare diseases, match patients to the most effective treatments, and reduce adverse drug reactions.

The move comes as the NHS celebrates its 70th birthday and represents an important step towards ‘precision medicine’ in the healthcare service, enabling more efficient therapies tailored to individual patients.

As reported in The Guardian, the service will see new cancer patients have their tumour DNA routinely screened for key mutations that could indicate the best treatment going forward, or to propose experimental therapies that could be suitable.

As well as aiming to provide patients with the most effective individualised treatments as quickly as possible, the service is expected to create a bank of data on the relationship between DNA, health and lifestyles. Such information could be used by researchers to learn more about cancer and other diseases.

Genomics England chief scientist Professor Mark Caulfield said: “We are ushering in a new era of genomic health. This is a big step and it grows over the new two years. It’s a total transformation.”

The genomic medicine service will initially launch in England but discussions of other countries in the UK becoming involved are underway.

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The NHS service will build on foundations laid by Genomics England’s 100,000 Genomes Project. The state-owned company has set up seven genomic hubs across England to deliver DNA tests on cancer and rare diseases as well as many other conditions.

A separate lab in Cambridge will perform whole genome sequencing and 13 other national genomic medicine centres will draw on multidisciplinary teams of specialists to write reports for patients after deciphering the results of routine DNA testing. Details of the tests will be stored in a national directory that will be updated yearly as genetic medicine advances.

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