Friday 23 March 2018

New cancer therapies 'will make chemotherapy obsolete in 20 years'

Sarah Knapton

Chemotherapy will be obsolete within 20 years, scientists have predicted, after announcing a project to map 100,000 genomes to find the genes responsible for cancer and rare diseases.

By the time children born today reach adulthood, invasive drugs and their devastating side-effects will have been replaced by sophisticated medicines that can fix individual faulty genes, according to those behind the project.

Countries around the world are embarking on a mapping programme in the hope of identifying the genes responsible.

The first few hundred pilot participants in London, Cambridge and Newcastle have already donated DNA samples and the project is expected to be completed by 2018.

"Twenty years from now there will be therapies, instead of chemo, that will be a much more targeted approach to treatment," said Prof Jeremy Farrer.

"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 and we will think 'gosh what an era that was'," he said.

The first human genome was sequenced in 2003 following 13 years of work at a cost of £2bn (€2.5bn). Now the same process takes about two days and costs just £1,000. A genome consists of a person's 20,000 or so genes and the DNA in between.

Over the next four years, about 75,000 patients with cancer and rare diseases, plus their close relations, will have their whole genetic codes, or genomes, sequenced.

Meanwhile, it has been discovered that women taking the contraceptive pill are 50pc more likely to develop breast cancer, with high dose tablets increasing the risk even further. The study of 1,102 women by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle was published in 'Cancer Research'.

Researchers found women who took pills containing a high dose of hormone oestrogen were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer while other forms of the contraceptive containing low levels of the hormone did not increase cancer risk at all. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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