Cambridge to lead way in cancer patients' DNA mapping


The eastern region has become a leader in life sciences since DNA was first mapped in Cambridge

The Prime Minister has visited Cambridge to announce that the region will play a leading role in mapping the DNA of patients with cancer. It could mean millions of pounds of funding for scientists here.

It's a ground-breaking idea and, if it takes off, could change the way cancer is diagnosed and treated.

The government will spend £100m mapping the DNA of of patients and David Cameron spoke to staff at the Cambridge Cancer Research Institute; one of the places which will play a leading role in the project.

Mr Cameron said it had the potential to cure cancer: "It's here in Cambridge that so much of the research has been done on DNA and on the genome.

Start Quote

If we can know what your DNA is, then we'll know what drugs are more likely to work for you" ”

End Quote David Cameron Prime Minister

"And I was very impressed seeing the Cancer Research laboratory - doctors from Addenbrooke's Hospital telling me that this work was going to help crack cancer and give their patients better and more accurate treatment."

Cambridge is where DNA was first mapped and since then the region has become a world leader in life sciences. Earlier this year the government announced £127m of funding for the Norwich Research Park and the Babraham Institute in Cambridge.

"If we can know what your DNA is, then we'll know what drugs are more likely to work for you. We'll be able to target drugs more accurately at individuals, so there'll be much less wastage," Mr Cameron said.

"Sometimes, of course, we're using drugs and treatment that have harmful side effects and then we'll know in advance whether they're more likely to work or not.

"So this is both a massive medical breakthrough potentially but it also has very positive financial implications as well."

Jungle exploits

While he was with us, we asked about a certain MP in the east who hast lost the whip. The name of Nadine Dorries elicited a wry smile from the prime minister.

"I didn't think it was the right decision to go into the jungle because, by and large, MPs really should be either in their constituencies fighting for their constituents or in parliament standing up for the areas they represent and taking part in the national decision making we have to do, but Nadine made her decision.

"Consequences with the chief whip followed and that's where we stand."

But Mr Cameron admitted he had had a word with Chief Whip Sir George Young.

"Of course I had a conversation with the chief whip. What the chief whip has now said was that she is now back in parliament and she needs to demonstrate that she's got to earn her way back into her colleagues' trust and affection."

He concluded firmly: "It's in her hands." The MP for Mid Bedfordshire may do well to take note.

Deborah McGurran Article written by Deborah McGurran Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

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