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Genomics Programme

Volume 593: debated on Tuesday 24 February 2015

The Government’s £300 million genomics England programme, led and announced by the Prime Minister as part of our life science strategy, has the potential to improve dramatically cancer diagnosis and treatment. By sequencing the entire genetic code of 100,000 NHS patients and volunteers and combining the data with their clinical records, and launching a genomic medicine service—a world first for the NHS—we will be able to understand the genetic triggers of disease, unlock new diagnostics and identify better treatments from existing drugs.

The number of people being treated for cancer successfully and getting appropriate diagnostic treatment in Dudley and Sandwell has increased substantially in the past five years, but does the Minister agree that harnessing genomic medicine is key to the future, and that we need to drive innovation in this field over the next 10, 20 and 30 years?

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. He is absolutely right: cancer is a genetic disease, and the more we know about genetics, the more we discover about different patients’ predisposition to different diseases and drugs. That is absolutely key, and nowhere more clearly so than in breast cancer, where the HER2-Herceptin breakthrough and the BRCA2 gene are allowing us better to screen, predict and target treatment of breast cancer, freeing women from the choice of mastectomy, which has been far too dominant, and enabling us to treat breast cancer as a preventable disease.