Cancer risk test five years away

GPs could be routinely testing patients for genetic risk of cancer within five years following a landmark study by Cambridge scientists.

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Cancer risk test could boost screening programme

Research by Cambridge scientists could lead to routine tests for patients genetic risk of cancer within five years.

The study compared the DNA of more than 100,000 cancer patients with a similarly sized sample from the general population.

They used microchip technology capable of identifying more than 200,000 genetic variants, some of which were suspected of being linked to cancer.

More than 1,000 scientists from 130 institutions in Europe and the US took part in the Collaborative Oncological Gene-environment Study (Cogs).

We're on the verge of being able to use our knowledge of these genetic variations to develop tests that could complement breast cancer screening and take us a step closer to having an effective prostate cancer screening programme

– Professor Doug Easton - Cancer Research UK

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, which co-funded the research, said:

This groundbreaking international work highlights how complex cancer is.

Hundreds, if not thousands of genes are likely to play a role in how cancers start.

But by understanding why some people seem to be at greater risk of developing cancer we can look towards an era where we can identify them and take steps to reduce their chances of getting cancer or pick up the disease at its earliest stages."

GPs could perform test for cancer risk in five years

Scientists at Cancer Research UK in Cambridge Credit: PA

GPs could be routinely testing patients for genetic risk of cancer within five years following a landmark study by Cambridge scientists.

The biggest investigation of its kind ever carried out has greatly multiplied the number of known genetic markers linked to breast, prostate and ovarian cancer.

In future, the results may make it possible to single out individuals with a potentially lethal hand of genetic cards using a simple saliva test.

They can then be monitored closely for the first signs of developing cancer, or - in the most high risk cases - be offered preventative treatment.

Experts believe the cheap and easy tests could be conducted in family doctors' surgeries.

Samples would initially be sent off to laboratory specialists, but eventually GPs could be doing the analysis themselves.