A £6 million programme, funded by Industry and the MRC, to carry out the largest ever study to develop new treatments and improve existing therapy for patients with a life threatening liver disease, Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC) has been awarded to four centres in the UK – Cambridge, Newcastle, Imperial College and Birmingham.
£5 million has been awarded as an MRC Stratified Medicine Grant with around £1.6 million going to Richard Sandford and the Department of Medical Genetics who are leading on the genomics and epidemiology part of the project. This programme is built upon the highly successful UK PBC Consortium originally established by Dr Graeme Alexander in the Department of Medicine and Dr Sandford which has already defined the genetic architecture of PBC as part of the WTCCC3 project.
This new collaboration, between scientists, doctors and patient groups, will provide a better understanding of why some patients respond to treatment and some don’t; work with pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs; and design a national protocol to streamline treatment across the UK. This will help ensure that, in the future, patients receive the right type and level of treatment depending on the severity of their disease and individual make-up, and determine whether that should be at their GP or in a specialist centre. This approach is known as “stratified medicine”.
Richard Sanford said, “By building a large PBC clinical database, the UK PBC Consortium has in a very short period of time gone from identifying the key genetic influences on disease pathogenesis to identifying individuals who do not respond to standard therapy and are at high risk of progressing to advanced liver disease. With this information we are now critically placed to identify the genetic factors that determine drug response. With this information we hope to be able to target current and new therapies to specific groups of patients and achieve improved long term outcomes.”