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Stratified Medicine Programme

Cancer Research UK's Stratified Medicine Programme is a significant step in making targeted therapies available for people with cancer in the UK.

Working together with AstraZeneca, Pfizer and the UK government's Technology Strategy Board, we aim to establish the foundations for a national service that will ensure standardised, high quality, cost-effective genetic testing of tumours is available for people with cancer. 

So, as and when targeted treatments become available, patients will be able to choose to have genetic tests that can help doctors decide the most suitable treatment for them. At the same time, by demonstrating it is possible to routinely collect samples from consenting patients, we will build a national database of tumour genetic information, treatments and outcomes that will help researchers design more effective cancer treatments in future.

Find out how to get involved:

Phase One

Phase One (July 2011 to July 2013) is a pilot study to demonstrate on a small scale how the NHS can provide molecular diagnosis for all cancer types routinely. In phase one of the programme, doctors in eight existing Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (known as clinical hubs) will profile up to 9,000 people with the following cancer types: breast, bowel, lung, prostate, ovary and melanoma.

Patients undergoing cancer care at these hospitals will be asked for permission to use surplus tissue taken during routine surgery. Samples will be sent to one of three centralised, quality assured laboratories (known as technology hubs) where DNA will be extracted, stored and tested for a set of specific genetic faults and variations. These have been selected based on previous research showing they will provide useful information.

Because Phase One is a pilot study, participating in it will not change how patients are treated, but we hope that the increased understanding we gain about the genetics of cancer will help scientists develop new treatments. The genetic data and relevant clinical information will be stored within a central data repository at the National Cancer Registration Service (NCRS), Eastern Office.

Collecting and storing information about patient's tumours and related clinical data is part of the Cancer Registries remit and they have been granted authority to do this by law. Cancer registries use this information to help understand the causes of cancer, compare the success of different treatments and contribute to research.

For researchers

The programme is a closed study but researchers may be interested in getting involved in the following ways:

  1. Accessing the programme research data;
  2. Linking trials/research projects into the programme;
  3. Applying for government funding to develop innovation in stratified medicine: 
    • The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) is investing up to £50 million in R&D grants to industry-led collaborations to develop stratified medicine in the UK over the next five years. 
    • The grants will be selected through open competitions.

For items 1 and 2 above, contact the Stratified Medicine Programme team for more information.

For companies

If you are interested in collaborations or partnerships with the programme, contact the Stratified Medicine Programme team for more information.

For patients

It is not possible to volunteer to be part of the Stratified Medicine Programme. Only patients already receiving care at the selected Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres will be recruited for the programme by their clinical care team. 

Participation in the programme will have no effect on what treatment patients receive. For those participating in the programme, relevant patient information can be found on the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres website.

Cancer Research UK is unable to recruit people directly onto any trials that are taking place in stratified medicine. If you are interested in taking part in research you should discuss this with your doctor.

There is more information about what stratified medicine is and related research on our patient information channel, CancerHelp UK.

Updated: 3 November 2011