Studying the genetic make-up of cancer patients helps to calculate risk of recurrence of the disease. It can also improve individual treatment plans for patients and help in the field of pharmacogenomics. A leading expert from the EU's Cancer Mission explains to Futuris.
A biobank is a storage facility for biological samples including blood, human tissue and/or DNA. They can then be used at any time for future medical research or pioneering methods.
The Managing Director of Estonian Biobank, Andres Metspalu, gives us some insight:
"I started the Estonian Biobank about 20 years ago. Our biobank is pretty large for a small country. We have around 20% of the entire Estonian population over the age of 18 included in our biobank; which equates to more than 200,000 individuals.
"They have all been analysed genetically, which is really remarkable. That is why we can do this genetic medicine not only for cancer, but also for other diseases.
"More than 3,000 people have already received their genetic risk (result) from the biobank.
"This is what keeps me busy every day, doing research and also facilitating the use of this information in healthcare".
"We are mainly talking about (predicting the risks of developing diseases like) cancer, cardiovascular diseases and type-2 diabetes. We also study melanoma, prostate cancer and lung cancer.
"We are also doing pharmacogenomics, drug response (how our bodies respond to drug intake).
"Not all drugs work on everyone as (pharmaceutical) companies believe or expect. Some drugs (can be) pretty harmful. You (can) get reactions and you (can) get side effects. You may end up in hospital after taking prescription drugs.
"Genetics can predict some serious events. It (genetics) should be used. This is what we are trying to introduce into everyday medical practice in Estonia".