The possibility of offering an improved prenatal test for Down’s Syndrome will be evaluated in a major new study run by Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children (GOSH).
The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and developed in close collaboration with the UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC), will explore whether non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT) should be offered to pregnant women in the NHS. The new blood test could improve the early detection of Down’s Syndrome with fewer women needing invasive tests, which can lead to miscarriage.
NIPT detects DNA from a baby in a sample of blood taken from the mother and this new test is reported to be approximately 99% accurate.
The study, which launches in November 2013, will involve the recruitment of women from several maternity units in London and the South East. It will investigate how NIPT compares with the NHS’s current Down’s syndrome screening programme in terms of how many women want it, how easily the NHS can provide it and how the associated information and education would be provided to women and healthcare professionals.
Lyn Chitty, Professor of Genetics and Fetal Medicine at GOSH and lead investigator, says:
“This study will look at whether NIPT can improve the safety and accuracy of screening for Down’s syndrome. At present, pregnant women who are shown to be at a higher risk of having a baby with Down’s syndrome are offered invasive follow-up tests which carry a risk of miscarriage. It is hoped that the introduction of NIPT will reduce the number of these invasive tests, while detecting more cases of Down’s syndrome than we currently do.
“We will also evaluate the views, opinions and experiences of women and health professionals.
“One of the very important aspects of our study is looking at ways to ensure women understand the test and the implications of the results so that they can choose whether or not to have it.”
Notes to Editors
About Great Ormond Street Hospital
Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation Trust is the country’s leading centre for treating sick children, with the widest range of specialists under one roof.
With the UCL Institute of Child Health, we are the largest centre for paediatric research outside the US and play a key role in training children’s health specialists for the future.
Our charity needs to raise £50 million every year to help rebuild and refurbish Great Ormond Street Hospital, buy vital equipment and fund pioneering research. With your help we provide world class care to our very ill children and their families.
About the National Institute for Health Research
The NIHR is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website www.nihr.ac.uk.
About the UK National Screening Committee
The UK National Screening Committee (UK NSC) is chaired by the deputy Chief Medical Officer for England and advises Ministers and the NHS in all four UK countries about all aspects of screening policy and supports implementation. Using research evidence, pilot programmes and economic evaluation, it assesses the evidence for programmes against a set of internationally recognised criteria. Assessing programmes in this way is intended to ensure that they do more good than harm at a reasonable cost.
UK NSC is part of Public Health England. Find out more at www.screening.nhs.uk.
This news release presents independent research funded by the NIHR under its Programme Grants for Applied Research Programme (Reference Number RP-PG-0707-10107).