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Cheap test for breast cancer due out next year

17 September 2008

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Tests for hereditary breast cancer could tumble in price from next year with the introduction of an “exciting” new test, according to a leading cancer expert.

Currently, women being tested for cancer-causing mutations in two specific genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 must undergo expensive full genetic sequencing, which can take up to 18 weeks to complete.

Professor Graham Taylor, head of Genomic Services at Cancer Research UK, said a new procedure is now being tested out which could allow scientists to focus on the two genes for study, cutting costs and reducing the time spent on the process.

The technique makes use of “next generation” sequencing, which allows several samples of DNA to be screened at a time and can be completed in just one week.

Until now, next generation technologies were used to scan the entire genetic sequence more quickly, but scientists are now attempting to use it to search for gene changes in a tiny fraction of people’s genetic make-up.

According to Professor Taylor, this “next generation” sequencing could reduce current costs by up to 99% and deliver major medical advances.

Professor Taylor, who is helping try out the new approach with staff from Yorkshire and Wessex Regional Genetics Laboratories, said: “It should mean reduced waiting times and that means people can start making decisions about their choices for the future.”

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