Entering the consumer genome era


In the President's address yesterday evening at AACR (American Association for Cancer Research) annual meeting, Judy Garber, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, spoke on "Cancer Genetics in the Post-Genome Era." Garber is the director of the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at DFCI.One of the points she drove home was the fact that it is getting easier and cheaper (relatively speaking) to have your whole genome sequenced. While this may cost upwards of $10,000 to $20,000, individuals are doing it. And with the ease of consumer genetic tests for individual genes, it may gain traction, and it will only get cheaper. The technique is used to generate an entire DNA code for one person, comprising about 3 billion letters of DNA sequence, which includes about 3 million genetic variants. Geneticists examine this genetic information with what's known on health and disease. This analysis can help identify health conditions the patient may have an increased risk for, or have already. Using that information can help physicians create an individualized plan for treatment or prevention.Garber noted that Brigham and Women's Hospital has foreseen the day where patients bring in their sequenced genome to their doctor and ask for an interpretation. Because while the sequencing may be easy, the analysis is what will be difficult. Brigham and Women's Hospital has opened the Adult Genetics Clinic and Personal Genomic Consultation Service along with Partners HealthCare Center for Personalized Genetics Medicine. The service is a pilot project that will offer whole genome sequencing to patients who would have the greatest short-term benefit from the testing, looking for traits that would impact treatment or prevention strategies.[You can read more about genome sequencing in "It's In the Genes."]Patients would be referred by their physician for the pilot program, but Garber foresees the day when someone arrives at their doctor's appointment bringing in a flash drive of their genome sequencing and asks "Now what?"So, would you get your genome sequenced today? And does a history of cancer make one more amenable to the idea?

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