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PCRF’s ‘critical contribution’ to personalised medicine initiative

4 September 2017

Pioneering techniques and knowledge generated by a PCRF research project are being used in an exciting personalised medicine initiative for pancreatic cancer patients.

Cancer Research UK’s £10 million PRECISION Panc programme launched in March 2017. It aims to transform the treatment of pancreatic cancer patients and fast-track the development of new therapies by matching individual patients with the most suitable new therapies being trialled, based on the ‘molecular profile’ of their tumour.

A molecular profile reveals which gene mutations are present in the tumour. These are usually produced by analysing – or genetically sequencing - tissue samples taken via traditional biopsy procedures.

PRECISION Panc researchers will also use blood samples to carry out ‘liquid biopsies’ to produce molecular profiles. Liquid biopsies can capture and sequence the tiny amounts of genetic material – DNA – that the tumour sheds into the patient’s bloodstream, to help guide the selection of experimental medicines and monitor the tumour’s response. Importantly, using a blood sample also offers patients a simpler alternative to the difficult and sometimes painful tissue biopsy procedure.

The blood biomarker approaches being used in the PRECISION Panc initiative were developed in a PCRF research project funded in 2012, led by Professor Caroline Dive and Dr Ged Brady at the CRUK Manchester Institute, together with Professor Juan Valle at the Christie NHS Foundation Trust.

The pioneering 2-year project established that tumour DNA could be retrieved from pancreatic cancer patients’ blood samples and that it could generate a molecular profile of the tumour.

“We’re proud that what we achieved during the PCRF project will now be used to help many more patients than we originally thought possible,” says Dr Brady.

“What we learned from the PCRF project was critical in our inclusion in PRECISION Panc and the success of the funding application to CRUK.”

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