UK to initiate true national cancer registry

According to reports in various media overnight and this morning, the government agency Public Health England has been authorized to start development of a true national database of cancer patients that is focused on accelerating the application of personalised medicine. See for example this report in The Daily Telegraph this morning. Similar registries are to be set up for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, and information exchange between the four registries will be facilitated.

Quoted in another of these media reports, the national director of disease registration at Public Health England, described the register as “the most comprehensive, detailed and rich clinical dataset on cancer patients anywhere in the world.” He goes on to state that it will “fundamentally change the way we diagnose and treat cancer” and that “in 5 years, we’ll be sequencing cancers and using therapies targeted to it.”

These are big claims. In the UK there are ablout 350,000 new cancers diagnosed each year and existing, historic data on some 11 million cancer patients. With regard to prostate cancer, there are some 40,000 new cases diagnosed in the UK each year (i.e., slightly more that 10 percent of all the new tumors diagnosed annually).

For the technically interested, there is a slide presentation available on line giving some histortical background and deatils about how this system will work. It will clearly be a while before we are able to get a clear picture of the clinical applicability of this new system, but if the reight data are collected it will certainly offer new ways for us to understand details about the appropriate application of varied types of treatment in the management of prostate cancer in the UK and it may offer other nations a model for similar national databases.

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