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Hospitals in Oxfordshire to test for susceptibility to dangers of chemotherapy

Published on 01/07/19 at 04:56pm

Hospitals in Oxfordshire have introduced a genetic test which helps doctors predict the dangerous side effects of chemotherapy.  

In total, 600 cancer patients at the Cancer and Haematology Centre at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford and the Horton General Hospital in Banbury will undergo a blood test prior to treatment to predict potential side effects of two commonly used cancer drugs - capecitabine and fluorouracil (5FU).

The chemotherapy drugs capecitabine and fluorouracil cause side effects including low blood counts, diarrhoea and heart problems – all of which can be fatal.

However the new test will allow doctors to adjust the doses of the chemotherapy drugs to suit individual patients.

The ToxNav test, which was developed by Oxford University spinoff Oxford Cancer Biomarkers (OCB), looks at 19 different variants of a gene called DPYD that indicate susceptibility to the toxicity of capecitabine and fluorouracil.

Around 5-8% of the population have the DPYD variants that increase susceptibility to the toxicity of the drugs

The ToxNav test thus uncovers the variants in the DPYD gene and thus helps doctors tailor treatment to different patients.

Prof Bass Hassan, Clinical Director at the Oxford Cancer and Haematology Centre, said: “The ToxNav test is a step-change for personalised treatment of cancer patients in Oxfordshire. It marks an exciting and important milestone in the development of the technology, in a unique collaborative initiative with Oxford Cancer Biomarkers, a local company that we have contracted in a close working agreement.”

“We are very hopeful that we will see a reduction in the chemotherapy mortality rate in Oxford, as well as a fall in the number of bed admissions by adopting this innovation.”

“The next steps for our cancer team in Oxford are to confirm the cost-effectiveness of the ToxNav test in routine NHS care, so that this information can help it be adopted by other NHS cancer hospitals.”

Louis Goss

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