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Scientists at the University of Ulster and Randox laboratories are to develop personalised tests for breast cancer which could avoid unnecessary treatments.

The two organisations will work on new gene-based tests aimed at identifying which patients will respond best to certain chemotherapeutic drugs.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK with more than 45,000 cases diagnosed each year. Early detection is a key aspect of successful treatment.

Professor Tony Bjourson, director of the University of Ulster's  Biomedical Sciences Research Institute and principal investigator of the project, said:

"The objective of this personalised medicine fellowship and indeed stratified medicine in general is to better target patient drug treatment and care based on personal genetic information about a patient or group of

"The lure of personalised medicine was spurred by the completion of the human genome project, and the development of a new generation of smarter, disease-targeted diagnostics and drugs.

"Genomic testing not only allows doctors to identify a person's susceptibility to particular disease, it also promises the ability to identify which patient will respond to a particular drug, avoiding unnecessary treatments, and adverse drug reactions, therefore ultimately increasing the efficacy of treatments and improvement of patients' health."

He said too many drugs worked in only about half the people who took them, so people may needlessly suffer adverse life-threatening drug reactions.

"This is of course a major concern for patients and doctors but it also represents a massive waste of scarce health service drug budgets," he added.

"So doctors need better diagnostic tests to enable them to select the best treatment for patients with degenerative diseases such as cancer."

John Lamont, chief scientist at Randox, said personalised medicine was important to the company.

"Through collaboration with Biomedical Sciences Ulster, Randox can access expertise at the university and promote knowledge transfer between the two centres of excellence," he said.

"This will accelerate our research and development efforts in personalised medicine, strengthen our ties with the University of Ulster and lead to the development of new products in this area."

The news comes as Randox Managing Director Dr Peter Fitzgerald became a CBE in the 2011 New Year Hours list. He received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster in 2010.