High hopes for new 'personalised' cancer test

John von Radowitz

A new test which could improve individual cancer treatments has given hope to sufferers.

Personalised medicine has taken a step forward with a test that shows which ovarian cancer patients will benefit from a new type of drug.

PARP inhibitors are designed to treat inherited forms of breast and ovarian cancer marked by a particular defective gene.

The new test, called the RAD51 assay, scans cancer cells and reveals which ones contain faulty DNA that can be targeted by the drugs.

A study found that one PARP inhibitor selectively blocked the spread of tumour cells identified by low levels of the protein RAD51.

It showed that 60pc of all women with ovarian cancer might benefit from PARP inhibitors.

Cancer expert Dr Asima Mukhopadhyay presented the findings at a conference in Liverpool today.

He said: "Our results show that this new test is almost 100pc effective in identifying which ovarian cancer patients could benefit from these promising new drugs."

Currently the test is not suitable for routine hospital use, but the scientists hope to refine it.

The test has been used to examine tumour samples in the laboratory and is not yet suitable for routine clinical practice, but the team hopes to refine it for use in patients.

Dr Mukhopadhyay added: "Now we hope to hone the test to be used directly with patients and then carry out clinical trials. If the trials are successful we hope it will help doctors treat patients in a personalised and targeted way based on their individual tumour."

The test may also be applicable to other kinds of cancer that respond to PARP inhibitors.

Dr Lesley Walker, from the charity Cancer Research UK, said: "It's exciting to see the development of promising new 'smart' drugs such as PARP inhibitors. But equally important is the need to identify exactly which sub groups of patients will benefit from these new treatments.

"Tests like this will become invaluable in helping doctors get the most effective treatments quickly to patients, sparing them from unnecessary treatments and side effects."