A new set of cancer trials could give patients fast access to the latest and best treatments by looking at the genetic make-up of their specific disease.

The “ground-breaking” Glasgow Cancer Tests can be used for any type of cancer and will give doctors information about what is causing it — along with clearer information on which drugs will provide the best treatment.

They were developed as an affordable group of solid tumour and blood tests by Glasgow’s Precision Oncology Laboratory (GPOL) at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

The tests have been designed for use in routine healthcare settings, such as the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), but will also help scientists discover what makes cancers resistant to chemotherapy drugs and provide data that will support development of new treatments.

NHS labs in England and Scotland are currently evaluating the new tests, while the University of Glasgow is using them in a clinical trials program for patients with pancreatic cancer.

Professor Andrew Biankin, regius professor of surgery at the University of Glasgow and director of GPOL, said: “The Glasgow Cancer Tests were created so that ultimately every patient with cancer could have access to the latest treatments and clinical trials.

“Our team of inventors, including Susie Cooke, Philip Beer and David Chang, have dedicated the last five years of their lives to creating the Glasgow Cancer Tests.

“This test will enable patients around the world to access the best treatments for their cancer — I’m extremely proud of what the team have done and where this might take us for healthcare in the future.”


Why are these new cancer tests needed to determine which treatments and trials the patient should receive?

Many of the existing cancer tests that look at a person’s entire genetic make-up (genomic testing), rather than specific genes or sets of genes, are expensive and require carefully prepared samples to be effective.

GPOL says the new Glasgow Cancer Tests require no special preparation and have been made cost-effective for public healthcare providers such as the NHS to use.

The university’s scientists have also found that while the healthcare industry is broadly aware of around 95% of the genomic changes that lead to cancer, the ever-changing nature of cancer testing means this information hasn’t been captured as a whole.

The GPOL team claims to have addressed this problem by creating a new test that not only covers what is already known about cancers, but also allows new information to be processed.

It also says the Glasgow Cancer Tests are “unique” because they cover all the known possibilities for the genomic causes of cancer while remaining affordable for use in routine healthcare systems.


How do the Glasgow Cancer Tests work?

The tests analyse the genetic code from a patient’s cancer sample, taken from either a solid tumour or a blood sample, to determine which trial drugs would work and which would not by looking for biological markers.

By checking for certain changes in the patient’s genes, the tests can be used to explain why a particular cancer developed in the first place.

GPOL head of medical genomics Dr Susie Cooke said: “The challenge has been to work out how to extract the maximum amount of information about a cancer sample from a small, affordable assay and a small amount of sample material.

“It’s vital to have a test that provides what the patient and physician need in the real world, rather than one that has requirements that are unlikely to be met in day-to-day healthcare.

“The test also needs to cover the full range of information present in a cancer’s DNA, so that every option can be explored for every patient.

“We want to make it much easier for patients to get onto clinical trials and for companies to run more trials and offer more trial options to patients — the Glasgow Cancer Tests can enable that.”