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Geisinger CEO signs up as 1st patient in new clinical DNA screening program

by on July 26, 2018 10:49 AM

DANVILLE — Geisinger President and Chief Executive Officer David T. Feinberg, M.D., MBA, became the first patient to sign up for a new health care system DNA screening program that will become part of routine health checkups. The program, a first-of-its-kind in the nation, was announced by Feinberg in May at the HLTH Conference in Las Vegas.

Under the program, patients will be routinely screened to see if they have any gene variations linked to certain diseases. This information will help doctors better treat or even prevent diseases in their patients.

“Understanding our genome’s warning signals will become an essential part of managing our health,” Feinberg said. “Participants can now work with their physicians to deal with what their genome reveals long before they become sick. That might involve making lifestyle changes to reduce their risks or understanding future health care needs. This allows us to provide truly anticipatory health care, instead of only reacting when it may be too late to change the outcome.”

One of the main early goals of the clinical DNA sequencing program launched today is for Geisinger to learn how best to use such genomic testing, screening and counseling on a wide scale, inside a routine clinical setting, which has never been done before.

Just as they would for any other screening test, patients in the program will consent to an exome sequencing test. The exome is a very small subset of a person’s DNA. Changes in the exome are closely correlated with potential risk for diseases including many different cancers, heart disease and other health risks. The results — both positive and negative — will be reported back to each patient and then become a part of their medical record.

Until now, this exome screening was being done only through Geisinger’s pioneering research program called the MyCode Community Health Initiative. More than 200,000 participants have helped build a biobank of DNA samples to study the relationship between genes and disease. In addition, MyCode has already reported clinical genetic results to more than 700 participants, primarily for significantly increased risks for cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Based on prior experience with MyCode, Geisinger expects that between 2 and 4 percent of adult patients will learn they have a potentially disease-causing change in one of the 59 genes to be evaluated.

The program is being launched in two clinics initially, the Internal Medicine Clinic at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, and at the Kistler Clinic in Wilkes-Barre. As an integrated delivery system that includes health and clinical resources such as doctors, hospitals, and laboratory services, Geisinger is well-positioned to eventually offer the new exome screening program to all three million patients.

“By extending exome sequencing into clinical care through deliberate and carefully implemented efforts such as this program, we are continuing the hard work, begun with MyCode, to establish the evidence base needed to incorporate precision health into routine healthcare,” said David H. Ledbetter, Ph.D., Geisinger executive vice president and chief scientific officer.


This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.
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