Professor Dame Sally Davies believes that every patient must be given a DNA test. The purpose of the test is to personalize medical treatments so that patients receive the medical regimen that is just right for them.
According to Clay Siegall, the National Health Service has more than 31,000 patients who have undergone DNA testing. Specifically, their genetic codes have been sequenced, but this is not enough for Dame Sally. She wishes that this type of sequencing would be as available to patients as simple blood tests.
The human body is made up of around 20,000 genes. Genes are the entities that inform the body what it is supposed to do. If there is even the slightest error in the genes, the result can be cancer and many other diseases. Sometimes, people inherit defective genes from one or both of their parents. Other times, a previously healthy cell becomes damaged. Whole genome sequencing identifies these tiny errors by giving physicians the ability to compare the patient’s DNA to healthy tissue.
According to Dame Sally, whole genome sequencing makes it possible to improve a patient’s diagnosis and care in two-thirds of those who have the testing done. The test allows physicians to choose the medications that will be the most effective in treating the patient’s illness. It also informs doctors when a patient will not benefit from a treatment, so the patient is never subjected to a remedy that would not have the desired outcome and would instead cause unpleasant side effects.
Dame Sally’s intention is to ensure that every patient diagnosed with cancer and other diseases has whole genome sequencing. With this testing, physicians will be able to diagnose a disease in less time. This is especially true of those who are afflicted with rare diseases.
Around 10 years ago, international scientists succeeded in sequencing the entire human genetic code, and it was labeled “The Human Genome Project.” It ensures that physicians all over the world have the human DNA code with which to study and reference as needed.
The sequenced code made it possible for physicians to learn the roles of each gene and how these processes can go awry. With the genetic code in front of them, physicians began to read their patients’ codes to discover the cause of their symptoms. From there, they could determine what would be the best option for treatment. Using genomic medicine, doctors are practicing medicine in a new way at NHS. For example, DNA testing can tell a physician in advance whether or not radiotherapy will shrink a woman’s tumor.
DNA sequencing is only done at 25 laboratories in Great Britain, but Dame Sally would like to expand this to a national network that would give everyone the ability to benefit from this new technology.
There have been breakthroughs in other parts of the world as well. In the Netherlands, a new technique has been developed at Radboud MC teaching hospital. Scientists at Radboud discovered a way to diagnose prostate cancer in a much faster fashion than it had been done before.
In the past, doctors had to test 12 different samples of the prostate, and it used to take several months. With the new technique, physicians can diagnose the disease in 14 days. If prostate cancer is suspected, the doctor will take an MRI to determine if there have been any changes in the prostate. If changes are suspected, a tissue sample will be taken, and the patient will have the results in just one week.
In France at the University Hospital of Lyon, scientists developed a test that would make it easier to predict when a patient’s bladder cancer would reoccur. The test examines the patient’s urine, and it would be more accurate than the previous test has been.
In a study, 348 bladder cancer patients participated in this new test. The researchers were looking for a defective protein called “TERT,” and this made it possible to predict the re-occurrence of bladder cancer in more than 80 percent of the sample. This is a marked improvement over the previous cytology test that could only predict re-occurrence at a rate of 34 percent.
The TERT test is also easier for physicians to read. With the cytology test, they must look into their microscopes for the results, but a machine reads the TERT test. Although the TERT test is more expensive than cytology, researchers expect the test’s price to come down as time goes by.
The TERT test can also detect bladder cancer before it spreads to the muscle wall and symptoms can be exhibited. The cytology test cannot detect the presence of cancer this early. The TERT test can also differentiate between bladder cancer and urinary tract infections, and this is good news to the researchers. Because of this, it is believed that it will be unlikely that the test will give false positive results.
Clay Siegall is a co-founder of Seattle Genetics. He is also the company’s Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman of the Board. Clay received a Bachelor of Science degree in Zoology from the University of Maryland and a Doctor of Philosophy in Genetics from the George Washington University. He started Seattle Genetics in 1998.
Clay Siegall’s company Seattle Genetics develops targeted therapy drugs for diseases that have not seen any improvement in the mortality rate in several decades. Dr. Siegall and his company are at the top of the targeted therapy industry and have created several drugs. In total, he and his company have developed more than 20 drugs and have partnered with many well-known drug companies, such as Bayer, Pfizer, Genentech and several others.
Clay worked for the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health from 1988 to 1991. He moved on to Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute in 1991 and remained until 1997. He is on the Board of Directors of Alder BioPharmaceuticals and has written more than 70 publications. He also holds 15 patents.