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Landmark Project Could Make Chemotherapy Obsolete in 20 Years

Drugs that target cancer without harming healthy cells and triggering distressing side effects could be a reality in 20 years, claim British scientists.

A landmark project to map 100,000 complete DNA code sequences is set to transform treatment of cancer and rare diseases, meaning chemotherapy could be obsolete within a generation.

David Cameron said it will make Britain the world leader in genetic research as he announced a package of deals worth 300million to carry out the work, expected to be completed by 2017.

Over the next four years, about 75,000 patients with cancer and rare diseases, plus their close relatives, will have their whole genetic codes, or genomes, sequenced. Cancer patients will have the DNA of both healthy and tumor cells mapped, making up the 100,000 total.

Scientists expect the project to be pivotal to the development of personalized treatments based on genetics, with the potential to revolutionize medicine. The researchers are looking for tiny changes in the genetic code that can trigger disease or affect its progress.

Professor Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, which is part of the project, said genome sequencing will help drug companies design medicines that can successfully target the tumor.

It means healthy tissue will be unharmed, side effects such as hair loss will be banished, and many patients will be spared the ordeal of treatment that doesnt work.

He said: Its actually happening now, in small ways. If you go into a hospital with lung cancer, for instance, that cancer will be sequenced.

Twenty years from now academics and industry will have developed therapies which will be targeted at you and specific forms of cancer.

'We will look back in 20 years time and the blockbuster chemotherapy drugs that gave you all those nasty side effects will be a thing of the past.

Nothing on the scale of the 100,000 Genomes Project has been attempted anywhere before and other countries are watching the UKs progress, say academics behind the project.

A 78million partnership between Genomics England, the body set up by the Department of Health to oversee the project, and the Californian DNA sequencing technology company Illumina is being unveiled by the Prime Minister today. Mr Cameron said: This agreement will see the UK lead the world in genetic research within years.

I am determined to do all I can to support the health and scientific sector to unlock the power of DNA, turning an important scientific breakthrough into something that will help deliver better tests, better drugs and above all better care for patients.

The genomes to be sequenced will be split evenly between cancer and rare diseases. Included on the cancer list so far are breast, bowel, ovarian, lung, prostate and leukemia.

(Source The Daily Mail)