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‘Cutting-edge’ gene test to improve cancer care for children

The NHS test is quicker at giving results than standard tests and could prevent children needing repeated biopsies

A gene test on the NHS could offer better results than standard tests and improve the care of children with cancer.

According to a study by the Great Ormond Street Hospital, University of Cambridge, Cambridge University Hospitals and the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the genome sequencing test reveals unknown genomic features of childhood tumours and enables medics to personalise cancer treatment.

Professor Sam Behjati, senior study researcher said: ‘Whole genome sequencing provides the gold standard, most comprehensive and cutting-edge view of cancer. It can be delivered as part of routine clinical care to children with suspected cancer and can change clinical management by delivering unexpected genomic insights.’

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The study examined data from 281 children with solid tumours and leukaemia, who had biopsies of their tumours or other samples taken.

Whole genome sequencing was found to improve the immediate clinical care of 7% of children, while also providing all the benefits of current standard tests and giving results in a quicker timeframe.

In almost a third (29%) of all cases, genome sequencing also delivered information which went beyond the standard tests.

Professor Dame Sue Hill, chief scientific officer and senior responsible officer for Genomics, NHS England, said the test could benefit more than 1000 children a year.

‘It’s great to see evidence of the benefits of this for children and young people with cancer and we hope this data will lead to more widespread use of it on the NHS, alongside other comprehensive gene panel testing,’ she said.