Having a diagnostic test or 'panel' that can screen for mutations in multiple genes at once will be important for access to all the new cancer drugs that are coming along.
'It will be very difficult to manage in NHS diagnostic labs without gene panels,' explains Dr Schuh. 'Currently, new cancer drugs tend to get approved alongside a diagnostic test specific to that drug which can determine which patients will benefit. But as more and more drugs like this come along, we can't possibly run all the many different separate tests this could mean. We need one test for a range of drugs.'
Dr Taylor adds: '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.'
The test is run on a next generation sequencing platform from Life Technologies Corporation, called the Ion Personal Genome Machine (PGM(TM)). The test and accompanying software have been substantially modified as requested by the Oxford team to fulfil diagnostic standards in their lab.
This work was co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board, the UK's innovation agency, through a grant to the NIHR Oxford BRC, Life Technologies Corporation, AstraZeneca, and Janssen Research & Development, LLC, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies.
As part of the test development, the Oxford team looked to improve the initial sample preparation in the lab, and to provide the software and infrastructure support to handle and analyse the amount of information involved. Most importantly, the Oxford group has carried out tests and comparisons to verify the robustness of the technique with cancer biopsies direct from patients.
The team compared the new 46 gene test against conventional techniques for 80 consecutive cancer bi
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