Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Genome Not Destiny, Doctors Stress Medical Tool Can Be Used to Tailor Lifestyle, Treatment

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Genome Not Destiny, Doctors Stress Medical Tool Can Be Used to Tailor Lifestyle, Treatment

Article excerpt

A common misconception that your sequenced genome will reveal the diseases you'll suffer and predict your demise overshadows its true role as an important medical tool.

The chief and lead investigator of the National Human Genome Research Institute's Genetic Disease Research Branch wants to make that clear with his own sequence of arguments.

We're now in a "funny phase, that's a bit challenging," Leslie Biesecker said, of the news and controversies about genome sequencing.

While ever faster, cost-effective sequencing has produced medical insights and breakthroughs, it also has invited overreaction to the potential to predict disease and health outcomes. It's also open season for medical ethicists to question the value and morals of knowing our medical future -- even if the genome can't and likely never will be able to do that for most people.

"The genome is not destiny," Dr. Biesecker said. "It's a tool that allows us to refine our individual risks but not make individual predictions."

Sequencing can determine health risks, but usually they are at levels similar to those in scientific studies about the risk of developing heart disease, cancer or diabetes. The genome, however, can identify whether a person has a greatly elevated risk for a genetic disorder, perhaps a 30 percent chance, which can lead to early medical action to reduce the risk or delay the onset.

"The core of what we are after here is to individualize medicine," Dr. Biesecker said. The genome can help determine the best medical strategy to combat disease or illness, such as the best combination of chemotherapy drugs for cancer. "We can tailor an approach to manage your risks because we will know what the risks are."

Risk never is 100 percent, he said. But any elevated risk can lead to earlier treatment or lifestyle changes to give the person a better chance. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.