UCL News


Genetics research

6 July 2004

A team of UCL researchers, led by Dr Paul Kotwinski and Dr Hugh Montgomery, Portex Research Fellow and Reader in Cardiovascular Genetics, has successfully acquired funding from the government, as part of its £50 million strategy towards greater understanding of genetics.

Dr Paul Kotwinski Six pharmacogenetics research projects, including UCL's, were selected for funding of £4 million.

The investigating team are a collaboration of clinicians and scientists, which includes UCL's Professor David Goldstein, Dr Alison Jones, Dr Gill Levitt, Professor Kevin Moore, Dr Andreas Makris (Mount Vernon Cancer Network) and Professor Dudley Pennell (Imperial College and Royal Brompton Hospital).

Pharmacogenetics is the study of a patient's genetic make-up and how it can affect their response to different medicines. Anthracyclines are medicines used to treat childhood and adult cancers which can also cause severe heart damage as a side effect. The Pharmacogenetics of Anthracycline Cardiotoxity (PACT) research programme, will examine underlying genetic predisposition to heart damage.

Two groups of patients will be studied. Children who received treatment for leukaemia and childhood kidney cancer at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, the associated teaching hospital of UCL's Institute of Child Health, will be studied in the GePAC study (Genetics of Paediatric Anthracycline Cardiotoxity). Women undergoing treatment for breast cancer will be studied in the BETTER-CARE study (Breast cancer, Early Disease: Toxity from Therapy with adjuvant Epirubicin Regimens - Cardiac Assessment and Risk Evaluation Study).

Dr Kotwinski says: "While research in this area is still in its early stages, pharmacogenetics has enormous potential to improve the effectiveness of the treatment that patients receive. At the moment, we don't have a test to tell us which patients will suffer heart damage as a result of use of anthracyclines before they start treatment. If we could predict who was at high risk and who was at low risk, based on their genetic make-up, treatment could be individually tailored to each patient. Potentially we could avoid heart damage in the most sensitive individuals, and give higher doses to others thereby improving their chances of a cancer cure. A study of these genetic factors might also ultimately guide the development of protective drugs."

To find out more about Dr Montgomery, use the link below.

Link: Dr Montgomery