Genetic tests to help cancer patients search for the best drugs and therapies for their treatment are now covered by the public health insurance system. The tests analyze the tumor tissues of the patients to detect gene mutations linked to cancer. With the health insurance coverage beginning this month, the cancer genome profiling systems — already introduced in the United States and Europe — are expected to take off in Japan, raising hopes for patients who have not responded to conventional cancer therapies and for those with conditions that have no effective treatment.

The systems, whose marketing in this country was approved by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry last December, are based on research showing that the same drugs and therapies may work in treating cancers that developed in different organs if the genes linked to the cancers have undergone the same types of mutation. The two systems — one developed by the National Cancer Center and health instrument-maker Sysmex Corp., and another developed by a U.S. firm and sold by Chugai Pharmaceutical Co. — are said to be capable of profiling over 100 types of cancer-related genes in one test.

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