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Lab21 Launches Cancer Gene Testing Service

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Lab21 has announced the launch of a cancer gene testing service from its Cambridge laboratories.

Lab21 is providing a test for analysis of the K-ras gene. K-ras plays an important role in cell growth regulation and the proliferation of cancer cells. In around 40% of cancer patients the K-ras gene is mutated and the resulting protein can limit the effectiveness of cancer therapies.

By identifying cancer patients with mutated K-ras, clinicians can quickly identify the most effective treatment. Patients with the mutated K-ras gene can be given alternative treatments, improving their chances of successful treatment.

Although the presence of wild-type k-ras does not guarantee that a patient will respond, identification of those patients who will not respond is equally important because it saves the patient exposure to potential drug toxicities as well as expense.

This form of personalized medicine whereby drugs are tailored to the genetic background of the target patient is becoming more important as more drugs are being developed which have clinical benefits for these specifically targeted patients.

Lab21 specializes in the provision of personalized medical services to both the private and public sector and is now launching a fully-approved commercial k-ras testing service.

Graham Mullis, CEO of Lab21 explained: “As new technologies develop to assist in cost-effective and efficient use of drugs, the need for prospective analysis of patient samples in high quality reference laboratories will become increasingly more important.”

“At Lab21 we are committed to building a portfolio of new tests, particularly in the oncology area, which can provide rapid results for cancer patients and help practitioners to direct more efficient treatment. Being able to select which patients are more likely to respond to therapy is an important step forward in the treatment of cancer.”

For example, scientists have shown recently that cetuximab, a new treatment for colorectal cancer, is poorly responsive if the tumours carry a mutated K-ras gene. Similarly, mutations in K-ras also confer resistance to erlotinib, a small molecule treatment for lung cancer.