WellSpan uses genetic data in patient care

(WHTM) – The future of genetic testing comes to WellSpan. The healthcare system is launching a program that uses DNA information to better predict patient health. Doctors said the program was revolutionary.

dr David Kann, WellSpan’s medical director of precision medicine, says the work of the healthcare system is a public service and, “This program is going to really revolutionize how we do it.”

The aim of the program is to make genetic data an integral part of patient care.

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“We know we’re going to find at least two or three thousand people with heart disease or cancer,” Kann said.

WellSpan partners with Helix, a DNA sequencing company to obtain genetic data that may affect your health.

“[Genetics] This basket of risks represents approximately 20 to 40 percent of all risks, but has been very difficult for healthcare systems to access,” said CEO James Lu.

Lu explained that patients enroll in this program by providing a blood or saliva sample.

“We then take that sample, either blood or saliva, and turn it into DNA, and then we run that through our instruments and then generate the data on the back,” he said.

The genetic data is then shared with the patient and their doctor.

“That will allow us to prevent many types of cancer and many types of heart disease,” Kann said.

The program will initially focus on three hereditary diseases: a form of hereditary high cholesterol, breast and ovarian cancer, and Lynch syndrome, another cancer-causing disease. This technology could have even broader implications.

“Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. All of these have genetic modifiers,” Lu said.

This program could also have positive health effects on future generations.

“Not only do you prevent heart disease and cancer in the patients you examine, but you also learn about their offspring and their offspring,” Kann said.

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The program not only helps with prevention. It can aid in diagnosis, predicting health outcomes, and even treatment.

“Genetics changed our actual opinion of what we saw with the patient in front of us,” Dr. Anwar Chahal, Director of the Center for Hereditary Cardiovascular Diseases. “It can actually transform your treatment.”

The future could be even brighter.

“There will be many diseases that we can cure,” predicts Kann.

WellSpan hopes to collect samples from at least 100,000 patients. They also plan to use the data to look at community health as a whole, but Helix said the community data will not include any identifying information that researchers could link to individual patients. Patients must also consent to the use of their information.

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“Every single step of it is approved to ensure patients are doing well, both in clinical use and research use,” said Lu.

https://www.abc27.com/news/top-stories/wellspan-moves-to-use-genetic-data-in-patient-care/ WellSpan uses genetic data in patient care

Brian Ashcraft

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