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U.K.'s NHS debuts multi-gene sequencing cancer Dx

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The U.K.'s National Health Service is propelling its diagnostic offerings deeper into the realm of personalized medicine. It will offer a new test that spots mutations in 46 different cancer cell genes in order to gauge how a patient will respond to treatment.

University of Oxford researchers and peers at the Oxford University Hospital NHS Trust developed the test, which runs on a technology platform developed by Life Technologies ($LIFE) and modified specifically for the Oxford test's use. The U.K.'s Technology Strategy board co-founded the effort by way of a grant given, in part, to Life Technologies, AstraZeneca ($AZN), and Janssen. The cost will be a little over $455 per test, and NHS personnel plan to scale up the diagnostic offering nationally through 2012.

This is a case where a diagnostic advance is being billed as a simultaneous cost safer. In theory, spotting a cancer gene mutation would be a treatment "red flag." Doctors will hopefully begin using a particular chemotherapy drug based on the specific cancer genome mutation they detect, allowing for more rapid treatment. Avoiding trial and error with cancer drugs could also reduce side effects, which themselves can create added health care costs, the researchers note.

Separately, the new test would be a big boost from existing gene sequencing processes, which are more time consuming because they involve sequencing of single genes. And it brings comprehensive genome sequencing into the mainstream.

'We wanted a test that would use the latest DNA sequencing techniques to detect a wide range of mutations in a wide range of genes, a test that would be able to cover more cancers and more treatments, all for a similar cost to conventional methods," Jenny Taylor, a developer of the gene sequencing test and part of the Wellcome Trust Center for Human Genetics at Oxford University, said in a statement.

- read the release

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