NHS England has announced that it is rolling out a new blood test which aims to detect whether some cancer patients are genetically prone to experience more serious effects from some chemotherapy treatments. These treatments can then be tailored more closely to the patients’ genetic makeup and so avoid the most serious side effects.
Drugs called Fluoropyramidines (including 5-fluorouracil, capecitabine and tegafur), which are used to treat some breast cancers, help to kill cancer cells and are usually broken down quickly by the liver and excreted. However, some people whose livers do not produce enough of the enzyme DPD (dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase) to break down these drugs in the body can suffer more serious side effects which can include diarrhoea, vomiting, breathlessness, nausea or extreme skin reactions. The new genetic test will show if a patient is DPD deficient and so should receive a lower dose or even be given a different drug. This marks another move towards the development of more personalised cancer treatments.