SINGAPORE: Recent advances in genetic sequencing, or the analysis of a segment of DNA, are paving the way for new, personalised treatments in cancer.
The Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) also said genetic sequencing has become cheaper.
A study on a drug used to treat a form of leukaemia called Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, found a higher level of resistance among the Asian population.
Through genetic sequencing of those who were resistant to the drug, researchers found a single genetic variant in 12 per cent of the Asian population. The variant does not exist in Caucasians or Africans.
Scientists were then able to work with drug companies to identify a small molecule to reverse this resistance.
The drug is currently in clinical trials.
HUGO’s president Professor Edison Liu, said: "The individuals with this variant are also relatively resistant to other drugs for other cancers as well. So they have now used this as a marker to identify people who might be resistant to other drugs. This is an example of the entry into personalized medicine.
"Every tumour is going to be slightly different from the next. Some of them may be dramatically different from other tumours of the same type. To treat them all as if they are one kind of cancer is probably a mistake."
Another study also found that 40 per cent of lung cancer cases in Singapore can be treated by a group of drugs, as compared to five per cent of lung cancer cases among Caucasians.
This is because the genetics of Singaporeans make them pre—disposed to the treatment.
By tailoring therapies for the appropriate genetic make—up of the cancer, there may also be fewer side effects.
Professor Liu said due to the advance of technology, the cost of genetic sequencing for patients has decreased dramatically, and he hopes in the next three years, genetic sequencing will be less than S$1,000.
Professor Liu made this comments ahead of the Human Genome Meeting which will be held from April 13—18 this year.
Besides cancer genetics, the conference will also cover environmental genomics, stem cell genomics, veterinary genetics and crop disease and resistance.
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