SOUTHAMPTON doctors have joined a world-leading multi-million pound project that promises to revolutionise treatment for patients fighting cancer and rare diseases.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust (UHS) has been named one of 11 centres across the country to play a vital role in a national genome initative that is set to transform diagnosis and treatment for patients battling some of the most life-threatening illnesses.

It could mean that patients suffering from some of the rarest and most debilitating diseases can get a clear and conclusive diagnosis that was never possible before, ensuring they get the right treatments and giving them the best chance of survival.

It has been revealed today that the Wessex NHS Genomic Medicine Centre (GMC), led by UHS with hospital partners across the region and the University of Southampton, will help to deliver the Department of Health and NHS England’s 100,000 Genomes Project.

The three-year £300 million initiative, launched by Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this year, involves collecting and decoding 100,000 complete sets of people’s genes – the human genome – to help scientists and doctors understand more about specific conditions.

It is anticipated that around 75,000 people will be involved, including some patients with life threatening and debilitating diseases, and recruitment to the project will begin from February 2015.

With agreement, samples of tissue from tumours and bloods tests will be collected from patients receiving treatment at hospitals from around the Wessex region, which incorporates Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Dorset, Wiltshire and parts of Sussex, Surrey and Somerset.

Treatment decisions The samples will be sent securely to a centre to be analysed before being sent back to Southampton for clinicians to help make diagnostic and treatment decisions.

Professor Karen Temple, clinical geneticist at UHS and co-lead for the GMC, pictured left, said: “This project has the potential to transform the future of healthcare and we are delighted many patients from across the south can be involved and will benefit from it.

“It will improve the prediction and prevention of disease, enable new and more precise diagnostic tests and allow personalisation of drugs and other treatments to specific genetic variants.”

Prof Temple, who is also a professor of medical genetics at the University of Southampton, added: “This means that for some participating patients there will be a conclusive diagnosis that can be reached for a rare and inherited disease that was not possible before.

“Treatment for cancer will now be targeted at the particular genetic changes that are present which will improve outcome.”

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England medical director, added: “Embracing genomics will position us at the forefront of science and make the NHS the most scientifically advanced healthcare system in the world.

“This is the start of a unique, exciting journey that will bring benefits for patients, for the NHS and for society at large.”