£14 million Government investment to help ‘personalise’ treatment

In collaboration with the Press Association

The minister for life sciences, George Freeman MP, has unveiled £13.7 million of funding for ‘stratified medicine’ research through the Medical Research Council (MRC).

“The future of cancer treatment is personalised or precision therapy" - Professor Tim Maughan, Cancer Research UK

Stratified medicine studies use diagnostic tests to place patients with the same disease into different groups according to their genes or symptoms.

Groups of patients can then be treated in a more ‘personalised’ way based on how they may be expected to respond to therapies

The four consortia backed by the new investment will focus on bowel cancer, asthma, hypertension and lupus. The bowel cancer project is also being backed by Cancer Research UK.

Cancer Research UK’s Professor Tim Maughan, who is based at the University of Oxford and will lead the bowel cancer project, said that stratified medicine will play a big part in the future of cancer treatment.

“The future of cancer treatment is personalised or precision therapy, where patients receive specific treatments that target the faulty genes in their individual disease. 
“No two cancers are the same, so even patients with tumours in the same part of the body may respond differently to treatment. Personalised treatments – and that includes medicines, radiotherapy and surgery – tackle each patient’s cancer in a tailored way,” he said.

The latest announcement brings the total number of stratified medicine consortia funded by the MRC to 13. That brings the current investment up to £52 million as part of the Government's £130 million investment in stratified medicine, which comes under its UK Life Sciences Strategy. 

Focussing on the bowel cancer project, Professor Maughan said the study “will help us better predict which patients will benefit from chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Importantly, we’ll also be able to spot the patients in which these treatments aren’t effective – sparing them from unnecessary side-effects.”

“The number of options for patients with advanced colorectal cancer aren’t limitless, but this project will allow us to make the best treatment decisions based on the genetics and personal needs of each individual,” he added.

More than 50 biotech and pharmaceutical companies from the UK, Europe and other countries such as China, the US and Japan, are involved in the 13 projects.

And with a wealth of NHS data to draw on, plus well established academic and industrial research bases, the UK offers a solid environment for stratified medicine research.

MRC chief executive Professor Sir John Savill said the UK has the research excellence, high quality clinical resources and the data to be at the forefront of stratified medicine.