It has been announced that the largest database of those diagnosed with cancer is to be set up in England.  The hope is that  collating all the data on each of the 350,000 new tumours diagnosed here each year will help to fundamentally change the way cancer is diagnosed and ‘typed’ and thus the way it is treated.  It is said to be a ‘fundamental change’.  The director of disease registration at Public Health England said that in five years we will be sequencing cancers.  We will be using specific therapies targeted to the precise and specific tumour an individual is found to have.

Old broad definitions of tumour such as breast, prostate or lung, are coming to be recognised as far too general and even misleading.  For example, research into the genetics of breast cancer not believe there are at least ten totally separate diseases, each with different problems and different outcomes and therefore each needing and justifying different treatment to maximise efficacy.   In time the new database will track each sub type of cancer and how it responds to different treatment.

Trefine Maynard, a specialist clinical negligence solicitor at Ashton KCJ, comments: “This is very exciting news. The advances in the understanding of cancer and how it develops are immense and the future promise of specific treatment targeted at the very precise tumour found is encouraging.  The Department of Health has already promised funds of up to £100m to allow the entire genetic code of 100,000 cancer  patients and patients with rare diseases to be logged in order to accelerate the progress of this much more personalised and customised medicine.  It is now recognised that there are a huge number of mutations that can result in cancer and that different mutations need and respond to different treatments.

Whilst the advances promised by genetics and the advances in understanding and recognising how cancer develops are both exciting and encouraging, at the same time working in the field that I do, I am very aware that there must equal advances and improvements in diagnosing cancer and doing so at the earliest opportunity.  All too often we are instructed by those who have had their disease missed resulting in the lost opportunity of early treatment and better outcome.  It would be sad if in the excitement of the new scientific advances, we lose the importance of recognising the patients that need to be treated and as early as possible.”