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Planning the Future of Personalised Medicine


Friday 21 May 2010


A meeting of some of the UK’s leading cancer specialists will discuss how to prepare for a future in which patients’ DNA is tested and treatments are tailored to their specific genetic defects.


Integrated Molecular Diagnostics into Personalised Medicine will be held at the Wolfson Auditorium at The Royal College of Physicians, London, on Friday 21 May 2010.


The meeting will cover the challenges and latest advances in personalised medicine, including genes currently under investigation as potential treatment targets and research into biological markers to predict patients who are likely to benefit. It will also discuss the importance of regulatory, laboratory and clinical trial practice changes.


Meeting co-chair Professor Gareth Morgan, a haematology expert at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and The Royal Marsden Hospital, says: “Drugs are already appearing on the market that are only effective for specific sub-types of cancer, and the key as more of these personalised medicines reach the market is that the systems are in place to make sure they reach the right patients. This is the focus of a major research effort at the ICR and The Royal Marsden, and today’s meeting will allow us to communicate our progress to the scientific community.”


Researchers from the ICR and The Royal Marsden Hospital will also share their expertise in setting up the largest molecular pathology laboratory in the UK that routinely and specifically diagnoses cancer patients.


The Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, located at the ICR in Sutton, opened in 2006 and assessed around 3,000 patients in the past year. Amongst other investigations, it tests patients’ samples to see whether their cancers are caused by a particular genetic mutation for which treatment is currently available, and usually returns results within a week.


Drugs already on the market that act only against tumours with a specific genetic profile include imatinib for some types of leukaemias and stomach cancers, cetuximab and panitumumab for subtypes of colorectal cancer and gefitinib for non-small cell lung cancers.


 “Speed is crucial, as patients need to start appropriate treatment as quickly as possible. Our expertise in testing for cancer subtypes means that turnaround times for genetics tests are generally three to seven working days - fast enough to be taken into account when deciding patients’ treatment,” says Dr David Gonzalez de Castro, head of the Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory. “It’s no longer considered experimental medicine – it’s a specialised area but it’s becoming routine.”




Media Contact: To interview Professor Morgan please contact ICR Science Press Officer Jane Bunce on 0207 153 5106

Scientists who wish to register a place at the meeting should email Diane Forzani or call 0208 722 4130


Notes to editors:

The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR)

  • The ICR is Europe’s leading cancer research centre
  • The ICR has been ranked the UK’s top academic research centre, based on the results of the Higher Education Funding Council’s Research Assessment Exercise
  • The ICR works closely with partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust to ensure patients immediately benefit from new research. Together the two organisations form the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe
  • The ICR has charitable status and relies on voluntary income, spending 95 pence in every pound of total income directly on research
  • As a college of the University of London, the ICR also provides postgraduate higher education of international distinction
  • Over its 100-year history, the ICR’s achievements include identifying the potential link between smoking and lung cancer which was subsequently confirmed, discovering that DNA damage is the basic cause of cancer and isolating more cancer-related genes than any other organisation in the world
  • The ICR is home to the world’s leading academic cancer drug development team. Several important anti-cancer drugs used worldwide were synthesised at the ICR and it has discovered an average of two preclinical candidates each year over the past five years

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The Royal Marsden Hospital

The Royal Marsden opened its doors in 1851 as the world’s first hospital dedicated to cancer treatment, research and education. Today, together with its academic partner, The Institute of Cancer Research, it is the largest and most comprehensive cancer centre in Europe treating over 40,000 patients every year. It is a centre of excellence, and the only NHS Trust to achieve the highest possible ranking in the Healthcare Commission’s Annual Health Check for the fourth year in a row. Since 2004, the hospital’s charity, The Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign, has helped raise over £60 million to build theatres, diagnostic centres, and drug development units. Prince William became President of The Royal Marsden in 2007, following a long royal connection with the hospital. 

For more information, visit

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