Scientists hail success of new test for breast cancer
SCIENTISTS have made a "breakthrough" in the detection of breast cancer.
Researchers in Newcastle have developed a method that might dramatically cut the cost and time it takes to test women for the BRCA1 gene, which carries with it an 80 per cent risk of breast cancer.
The new technology uses a Roche "genome sequencer" to test DNA for genetic abnormalities and is likely to be available on the NHS early next year.
Professor John Burn, head of the Institute of Human Genetics at Newcastle University, where the method has been developed, described it as a "big step forward".
He said: "We are the first to move on this. Technologically, this is a breakthrough that is keeping us at the forefront of diagnostic testing.
"It takes us up to a whole new level, comparable to moving from horse-drawn carts to cars".
He said that current tests for the BRCA1 gene can take weeks, cost up to 1,000 and are only available to women with a strong family history of the disease.
But the new technology would "dramatically reduce the price and significantly increase the pace" of the tests, he said.
Potentially, the Swiss-made machine can produce results in hours.
He said: "Spell-checking genes is a challenge. The current technology is good but it's not as good as we want. It's not cheap and fast enough."
Now the machine is working, scientists at the institute are validating the technique so that it can be rolled out more widely over the coming year.
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