Direct-to-consumer genetic testing is a new means of obtaining genetic testing outside of a traditional clinical setting. This study assesses genetic counselors’ experience, knowledge, and beliefs regarding direct-to-consumer genetic testing for tests that would currently be offered in genetics clinics.
Members of the National Society of Genetic Counselors completed a web-administered survey in February 2008.
Response rate was 36%; the final data analysis included 312 respondents. Eighty-three percent of respondents had two or fewer inquiries about direct-to-consumer genetic testing, and 14% had received requests for test interpretation or discussion. Respondents believed that genetic counselors have a professional obligation to be knowledgeable about direct-to-consumer genetic testing (55%) and interpret results (48%). Fifty-one percent of respondents thought genetic testing should be limited to a clinical setting; 56% agreed direct-to-consumer genetic testing is acceptable if genetic counseling is provided. More than 70% of respondents would definitely or possibly consider direct-to-consumer testing for patients who (1) have concerns about genetic discrimination, (2) want anonymous testing, or (3) have geographic constraints.
Results indicate that genetic counselors have limited patient experiences with direct-to-consumer genetic testing and are cautiously considering if and under what circumstances this approach should be used
We examined hospital use of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) assay for lung cancer patients. Our goal was to inform the development of a model to predict T3 translation of guideline-directed, molecular diagnostic tests.
This was a retrospective observational study. Using logistic regression, we analyzed the association between likelihood to order the EGFR assay and hospital’s institutional and regional characteristics.
Significant institutional predictors included: Affiliation with an academic medical center (odds ratio [OR], 1.48; 95% CI, 1.20–1.83), Participation in an NCI clinical research cooperative group (OR, 2.06, 1.66–2.55), PET scan (OR, 1.44, 1.07–1.94) and cardio thoracic surgery (OR, 1.90, 1.52–2.37) services. Significant regional predictors included: Metropolitan county (OR, 2.08, 1.48 to 2.91), Above average education (OR, 1.46, 1.09 to 1.96), Above average income (OR, 1.46, 1.04–2.05). Distance from an NCI cancer center was a negative predictor (OR, 0.996, 0.995–0.998), a 34% decrease in likelihood for every 100 miles.
In 2010, 12% of US acute care hospitals ordered the EGFR assay, suggesting most lung cancer patients did not have access to this test. This case study illustrated the need for: 1) Increased dissemination and implementation research. 2) Interventions to improve adoption of guideline-directed, molecular diagnostic tests by community hospitals.
equity; access; lung; cancer; genomics
The Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Network is a National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)-funded consortium engaged in the development of methods and best-practices for utilizing the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) as a tool for genomic research. Now in its sixth year, its second funding cycle and comprising nine research groups and a coordinating center, the network has played a major role in validating the concept that clinical data derived from EMRs can be used successfully for genomic research. Current work is advancing knowledge in multiple disciplines at the intersection of genomics and healthcare informatics, particularly electronic phenotyping, genome-wide association studies, genomic medicine implementation and the ethical and regulatory issues associated with genomics research and returning results to study participants. Here we describe the evolution, accomplishments, opportunities and challenges of the network since its inception as a five-group consortium focused on genotype-phenotype associations for genomic discovery to its current form as a nine-group consortium pivoting towards implementation of genomic medicine.
electronic medical records; personalized medicine; genome-wide association studies; genetics and genomics; collaborative research
To determine whether enzyme therapy with imiglucerase/alglucerase demonstrates dose-response relationships with doses and disease parameters used in routine clinical practice for Gaucher disease type 1 patients.
Analyses included all patients with Gaucher disease type 1 on enzyme therapy and with intact spleens in the large observational database of the International Collaborative Gaucher Group Gaucher Registry. Propensity scoring was used to match patients between enzyme therapy dose groups categorized as Group A (5 U to <29 U/kg/2 weeks), Group B (29 U to <48 U/kg/2 weeks), Group C (48 U to <75 U/kg/2 weeks). Hemoglobin concentration, platelet count, and hepatic and splenic volumes were assessed after initiation of enzyme therapy using nonlinear mixed effects models. The maximal effect (Emax) and half-time to Emax (T50) of enzyme therapy for each parameter were compared across dosing groups.
Propensity score matching resulted in three comparable groups of 122 patients each (enzyme therapy in Groups A, B, and C). Dose-response relationships were found with regard to Emax and T50 over 96 months for each disease parameter.
Enzyme therapy with imiglucerase/alglucerase displays a dose-dependent improvement in hematological and visceral parameters in Gaucher disease type 1 patients. Group C displayed greater treatment effects than Groups A or B. Propensity score matching and nonlinear mixed effects model analyses provide a prototype for assessment of treatment outcomes based on observational data from international rare disease registries.
propensity scoring; inborn errors of metabolism; lysosomal storage disease; sphingolipids
The debate surrounding the return of results from high-throughput genomic interrogation encompasses many important issues including ethics, law, economics, and social policy. As well, the debate is also informed by the molecular, genetic, and clinical foundations of the emerging field of clinical genomics, which is based on this new technology. This manuscript outlines the main biomedical considerations of sequencing technologies and demonstrates some of the early clinical experiences with the technology to enable the debate to stay focused on real-world practicalities. These experiences are based on early data from the ClinSeq project, which has generated exome sequence data on 572 subjects. These data are beginning to be interpreted and returned to the subjects, which provides examples of the potential usefulness and pitfalls of clinical genomics. There are numerous genetic results that can be readily derived from a genome including rare, high penetrance traits and carrier states. However, much work needs to be done to develop the tools and resources for genomic interpretation. The main lesson learned is that a genome sequence may be better considered as a health care resource, rather than a test, one that can be interpreted and used over the lifetime of the patient.
Published guidelines suggest that research results and incidental findings should be offered to study participants under some circumstances. Although some have argued against the return of results in research, many cite an emerging consensus that there is an ethical obligation to return at least some results; the debate quickly turns to issues of mechanics (e.g., which results? who discloses? for how long does the obligation exist?). Although commentators are careful to distinguish this as an ethical rather than legal obligation, we worry that return of results may unjustifiably become standard of care based on this growing “consensus,” which could quickly lead to a legal (negligence-based) duty to offer and return individualized genetic research results. We caution against this and argue in this essay that the debate to date has failed to give adequate weight to a number of fundamental ethical and policy issues that should undergird policy on return of research results in the first instance, many of which go to the fundamental differences between research and clinical care. We confine our comments to research using data from large biobanks, the topic of the guidelines proposed in this symposium issue.
biobanking; ethics; genetics; law; policy; return of results
Scientific advances have improved our ability to target cancer interventions to individuals who will benefit most, and spare the risks and costs to those who will derive little benefit or even be harmed. Several approaches are currently used for targeting interventions for cancer risk reduction, screening and treatment, including risk prediction algorithms for identifying high-risk subgroups and diagnostic tests for tumor markers and germline genetic mutations. Economic evaluation can inform decisions about the use of targeted interventions, which may be more costly than traditional strategies. However, assessing the impact of a targeted intervention on costs and health outcomes requires explicit consideration of the method of targeting. Here we describe the importance of this principle by reviewing published cost-effectiveness analyses (CEAs) of targeted interventions in breast cancer. Few studies we identified explicitly evaluated the relationship between the method of targeting, the accuracy of the targeting test and outcomes of the targeted intervention. Those that did found that characteristics of targeting tests had a substantial impact on outcomes. We posit that the method of targeting and the outcomes of a targeted intervention are inextricably linked and recommend that CEAs of targeted interventions explicitly consider costs and outcomes of the method of targeting.
breast cancer; economic analysis; cost-effectiveness analysis; targeted therapy; personalized medicine; BRCA; trastuzumab; gene expression profiling
Little is known about parental attitudes toward return of individual research results (IRRs) in pediatric genomic research. The aim of this study was to understand the views of the parents who enrolled their children in a genomic repository in which IRRs will be returned.
We conducted focus groups with parents of children with developmental disorders enrolled in the Gene Partnership (GP), a genomic research repository that offers to return IRRs, to learn about their understanding of the GP, motivations for enrolling their children, and expectations regarding the return of IRRs.
Parents hoped to receive IRRs that would help them better understand their children’s condition(s). They understood that this outcome was unlikely, but hoped that their children’s participation in the GP would contribute to scientific knowledge. Most parents wanted to receive all IRRs about their child, even for diseases that were severe and untreatable, citing reasons of personal utility. Parents preferred electronic delivery of the results and wanted to designate their preferences regarding what information they would receive.
It is important for researchers to understand participant expectations in enrolling in a research repository that offers to disclose children’s IRRs in order to effectively communicate the implications to parents during the consenting process.
biorepository research; individual research results; parent perspectives; pediatric biobank; pediatric genetic research; returning research results
To explore specific conditions and types of genetic variants that specialists in genetics recommend should be returned as incidental findings in clinical sequencing.
Sixteen specialists in clinical genetics and/or molecular medicine selected variants in 99 common conditions to return to the ordering physician if discovered incidentally through whole genome sequencing. For most conditions, the specialists independently considered 3 molecular scenarios for both adults and minor children: a known pathogenic mutation, a truncating variant presumed pathogenic (where other truncating variants were known to be pathogenic), or a missense variant predicted in silico to be pathogenic.
On average, for adults and children respectively, each specialist selected 83.5 and 79.0 conditions or genes out of 99 in the known pathogenic mutation categories, 57.0 and 53.5 out of 72 in the truncating variant categories, and 33.4 and 29.7 out of 72 in the missense variant categories. Concordance in favor of disclosure within the adult/known pathogenic mutation category was 100% for 21 conditions or genes and 80% or higher for 64 conditions or genes.
Specialists were highly concordant for the return of findings in 64 conditions or genes if discovered incidentally during whole exome or whole genome sequencing.
whole genome sequencing; incidental findings
To describe the process of structuring a partnership between academic researchers and two personalized genetic testing companies that would manage conflicts of interest while allowing researchers to study the impact of this nascent industry.
We developed a transparent process of ongoing communication about the interests of all research partners to address challenges in establishing study goals, survey development, data collection, analysis, and manuscript preparation. Using the existing literature on conflicts of interest and our experience, we created a checklist for academic and industry researchers seeking to structure research partnerships.
Our checklist includes questions about the risk to research participants, sponsorship of the study, control of data analysis, freedom to publish results, the impact of the research on industry customers, openness to input from all partners, sharing results before publication, and publication of industry-specific data. Transparency is critical to building trust between partners. Involving all partners in the research development enhanced the quality of our research and provided an opportunity to manage conflicts early in the research process.
Navigating relationships between academia and industry is complex and requires strategies that are transparent and responsive to the concerns of all. Employing a checklist of questions prior to beginning a research partnership may help to manage conflicts of interest.
conflicts of interest; direct-to-consumer; partnership; personalized genetic testing; personalized medicine
Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD) type III, glycogen debranching enzyme deficiency, causes accumulation of glycogen in liver, skeletal, and cardiac muscle. Some patients develop increased left ventricular (LV) thickness by echocardiography, but the rate of increase and its significance remain unclear.
We evaluated 33 patients with GSD type III, 23 with IIIa and 10 with IIIb, ages 1 month – 55.5 yrs, by echocardiography for wall thickness, LV mass, shortening and ejection fractions, at 1 time point (n = 33) and at 2 time points in patients with more than 1 echocardiogram (13 of the 33).
Of 23 cross-sectional patients with type IIIa, 12 had elevated LV mass, 11 had elevated wall thickness. One type IIIb patient had elevated LV mass but 4 had elevated wall thickness. For those with multiple observations, 9 of 10 with type IIIa developed increased LV mass over time, with 3 already increased at first measurement. Shortening and ejection fractions were generally normal.
Elevated LV mass and wall thickness is more common in patients with type IIIa but develops rarely in type IIIb, though ventricular systolic function is preserved. This suggests serial echocardiograms with attention to LV thickness and mass are important for care of these patients.
Glycogen Storage Disease Type III; left ventricular hypertrophy; ventricular function; left ventricular mass
Lynch syndrome is the most common cause of inherited colorectal cancer, accounting for approximately 3% of all colorectal cancer cases in the United States. In 2009, an evidence-based review process conducted by the independent Evaluation of Genomic Applications in Practice and Prevention Working Group resulted in a recommendation to offer genetic testing for Lynch syndrome to all individuals with newly diagnosed colorectal cancer, with the intent of reducing morbidity and mortality in family members. To explore issues surrounding implementation of this recommendation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention convened a multidisciplinary working group meeting in September 2010. This article reviews background information regarding screening for Lynch syndrome and summarizes existing clinical paradigms, potential implementation strategies, and conclusions which emerged from the meeting. It was recognized that widespread implementation will present substantial challenges, and additional data from pilot studies will be needed. However, evidence of feasibility and population health benefits and the advantages of considering a public health approach were acknowledged. Lynch syndrome can potentially serve as a model to facilitate the development and implementation of population-level programs for evidence-based genomic medicine applications involving follow-up testing of at-risk relatives. Such endeavors will require multilevel and multidisciplinary approaches building on collaborative public health and clinical partnerships.
colorectal cancer; genetic screening; genetic testing; HNPCC; Lynch syndrome
PTEN Hamartoma Tumor Syndrome (PHTS) is an autosomal dominant disorder with increased risks of neoplasias, macrocephaly, and developmental disabilities. While both familial and sporadic cases exist, actual de novo mutation frequency remains unknown. We sought to estimate this within our PTEN-mutation positive patient series.
Patients were prospectively accrued if they had known pathogenic germline PTEN mutations or phenotypic features suspicious for PHTS. Only families with pathogenic PTEN mutations were included. Likelihood for de novo mutation was graded from 1 (confirmed inherited) to 5 (confirmed de-novo) based on family history and mutation-status. Fisher’s 2-tailed exact and unpaired t-tests were used to compare between groups.
187 pathogenic PTEN-mutation positive families were eligible for this study. De novo (grade 5) status was confirmed in 20 (10.7%) probands, and in 36 (19.3%) was suspected based on family history. Demographics, mutations, and phenotypes were similar for probands graded 1 versus 5 (all p>0.06). In grade 1 probands, mutations were inherited equally from maternal and paternal lineages (p=0.55).
The frequency of de novo PTEN mutation is minimally 10.7% and maximally 47.6%. Absence of PHTS features within a family history should not preclude consideration of this diagnosis for patients with relevant personal history.
Germline PTEN mutation; Cowden syndrome; Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba syndrome; inherited cancer syndrome; de novo mutation
New evidence is available regarding the utility of the 21-gene Recurrence Score (RS) assay in guiding chemotherapy use for node-negative, estrogen receptor–positive breast cancer. We applied this evidence in a decision-analytic model to reevaluate the cost-effectiveness of the assay.
We cross-classified patients by clinicopathologic characteristics from the Adjuvant! risk index and by RS risk group. For non–RS-guided treatment, we assumed patients receiving hormonal therapy alone had low-risk characteristics and patients receiving chemotherapy and hormonal therapy had higher-risk characteristics. For RS-guided treatment, we assigned chemotherapy probabilities conditional on RS risk group and clinicopathologic characteristics.
An estimated 40.4% of patients in the RS-guided strategy and 47.3% in the non–RS-guided strategy were expected to receive chemotherapy. The incremental gain in quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) was 0.16 (95% CI, 0.08 to 0.28) with the RS-guided strategy. Lifetime medical costs to the health system were $2692 ($1546 to $3821) higher with the RS-guided strategy, for an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $16,677/QALY ($7613 to $37,219). From a societal perspective, the incremental cost-effectiveness was $10,788/QALY ($6840 to $30,265).
The findings provide supportive evidence for the economic value of the 21-gene RS assay in node-negative, estrogen receptor–positive breast cancer.
Breast Neoplasms; Chemotherapy; Adjuvant; Cost-Benefit Analysis; Gene Expression; Health Care Costs; Prognosis
Progress in the debate over returning incidental findings (IFs) and individual research results (IRRs) to research participants who provide specimens and data to biobanks in genetic and genomic research requires a new tool to allow comparison across heterogeneous biobank research systems and in-depth analysis of the sources and types of findings generated for potential return. This paper presents a new visual mapping tool to allow systematic and standardized depiction of (1) the specimens initially collected, (2) the materials and datasets then created (3) the analyses then performed, and finally (4) the genetic and genomic results generated, including potential IFs and IRRs. For any individual biobank research system, this sequence of four maps can be created to anticipate the sources and types of IFs and IRRs to be generated, to plan how to handle them, and then to manage them responsibly over time. The authors show how this 4-map tool was created, then apply this tool to 4 national biobank systems, demonstrating that this tool can provide a common platform to visualize biobank content, anticipate how IFs and IRRs will arise in a biobank research context, and inform policy development.
incidental findings; return of results; genetics; genomics; biobank; biorepository; human subjects research; bioethics; research ethics
Advances in genetic sequencing technology have the potential to enhance testing for genes associated with genetically heterogeneous clinical syndromes, such as primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD). The objective of this study was to investigate the performance characteristics of exon-capture technology coupled with massively parallel sequencing for clinical diagnostic evaluation.
We performed a pilot study of four individuals with a variety of previously identified PCD mutations. We designed a custom array (NimbleGen) to capture 2089 exons from 79 genes associated with PCD or ciliary function and sequenced the enriched material using the GS FLX Titanium (Roche 454) platform. Bioinformatics analysis was performed in a blinded fashion in an attempt to detect the previously identified mutations and validate the process.
Three of three substitution mutations and one of three small insertion/deletion mutations were readily identified using this methodology. One small insertion mutation was clearly observed after adjusting the bioinformatics handling of previously described SNPs. This process failed to detect two known mutations: one single nucleotide insertion and a whole exon deletion. Additional retrospective bioinformatics analysis revealed strong sequence-based evidence for the insertion but failed to detect the whole exon deletion. Numerous other variants were also detected, which may represent potential genetic modifiers of the PCD phenotype.
We conclude that massively parallel sequencing has considerable potential for both research and clinical diagnostics, but further development is required before widespread adoption in a clinical setting.
Next-generation sequencing; exon-capture; molecular diagnostic testing; primary ciliary dyskinesia; clinical genetics
High sustained antibody titers complicate many disorders treated with a therapeutic protein, including those treated with enzyme replacement therapy, such as Pompe disease. Although enzyme replacement therapy with alglucosidase alfa (Myozyme) in Pompe disease has improved the prognosis of this otherwise lethal disorder, patients who develop high sustained antibody titers to alglucosidase alfa enter a prolonged phase of clinical decline resulting in death despite continued enzyme replacement therapy. Clinically effective immune-tolerance induction strategies have yet to be described in the setting of an entrenched immune response characterized by high sustained antibody titers, wherein antibody-producing plasma cells play an especially prominent role.
We treated three patients with infantile Pompe disease experiencing marked clinical decline due to high sustained antibody titers. To target the plasma cell source of high sustained antibody titers, a regimen based on bortezomib (Velcade) was used in combination with rituximab, methotrexate, and intravenous immunoglobulin.
The treatment regimen was well tolerated, with no obvious side effects. Patient 1 had a 2,048-fold, and patients 2 and 3 each had a 64-fold, reduction in anti-alglucosidase alfa antibody titer, with concomitant sustained clinical improvement.
The addition of bortezomib to immunomodulatory regimens is an effective and safe treatment strategy in infantile Pompe disease, with potentially broader clinical implications.
antibodies; bortezomib; enzyme replacement therapy; glycogen storage disease type II; immune modulation
Primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) is a genetically heterogeneous disorder of motile cilia. Most of the disease-causing mutations identified to date involve the heavy (DNAH5) or intermediate (DNAI1) chain dynein genes in ciliary outer dynein arms, although a few mutations have been noted in other genes. Clinical molecular genetic testing for PCD is available for the most common mutations. The respiratory manifestations of PCD (chronic bronchitis leading to bronchiectasis, chronic rhino-sinusitis and chronic otitis media) reflect impaired mucociliary clearance owing to defective axonemal structure. Ciliary ultrastructural analysis in most patients (>80%) reveals defective dynein arms, although defects in other axonemal components have also been observed. Approximately 50% of PCD patients have laterality defects (including situs inversus totalis and, less commonly, heterotaxy and congenital heart disease), reflecting dysfunction of embryological nodal cilia. Male infertility is common and reflects defects in sperm tail axonemes. Most PCD patients have a history of neonatal respiratory distress, suggesting that motile cilia play a role in fluid clearance during the transition from a fetal to neonatal lung. Ciliopathies involving sensory cilia, including autosomal dominant or recessive polycystic kidney disease, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, and Alstrom syndrome, may have chronic respiratory symptoms and even bronchiectasis suggesting clinical overlap with PCD.
Primary ciliary dyskinesia; PCD; Kartagener syndrome; situs inversus; dynein
Accumulation of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) deletions and the resultant impaired oxidative phosphorylation may play a pathogenic role in the mediation of age-related sarcopenia.
Twenty four participants of the New Mexico Aging Process Study were classified as normal lean (n=15) or sarcopenic (n=9) based on body composition determined by Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry. Complex I and IV activities were measured in the skeletal muscle samples obtained from gastrocnemius muscle. A two-stage nested PCR strategy was used to identify the mtDNA deletions in the entire mitochondrial genome in the skeletal muscle samples.
While complex I activity was not significantly different (5.5 ± 0.9 vs. 4.6 ± 0.7 mU/mg protein, p>0.05), complex IV activity was higher in sarcopenic subjects (1.4 ± 0.3 vs. 1.0 ± 0.1 mU/mg protein, p<0.05). mtDNA deletions were mostly located in the region of complex I and spanned from NADH dehydrogenase (ND)1 to ND6. Deletions in the 8577–10407 bp and 10233–11249 bp regions were associated with a significant decrease in complex I activity (p<0.05 and p=0.02 respectively). Total cumulative deletion, defined as the sum of individual length of deletions in a subject, was comparable in subjects with and without sarcopenia (1760 ± 726 vs. 1782 ± 888 bp, p>0.05). The magnitude of mtDNA deletion, however, correlated positively with lean body mass (r=0.43, p<0.05).
Thus, mtDNA deletions are common in elderly subjects and are negatively related to complex I activity. The positive association between mtDNA deletions and lean body mass needs to be confirmed by studies in a larger study population.
Mitochondria; DNA deletion; Oxidative phosphorylation; aging and sarcopenia
Pharmacogenetic (PGx) testing is one of the primary drivers of personalized medicine. The use of PGx testing may provide a lifetime of benefits through tailoring drug dosing and selection of multiple medications to improve therapeutic outcomes and reduce adverse responses. We aimed to assess public interest and concerns regarding sharing and storage of PGx test results that would facilitate the re-use of PGx data across a lifetime of care.
We conducted a random-digit-dial phone survey of a sample of the U.S. public.
We achieved an overall response rate of 42% (n=1,139). Most respondents indicated they were extremely or somewhat comfortable allowing their PGx test results to be shared with other doctors involved in their care management (90% ± 2.18%); significantly fewer respondents (74% ± 3.27%) indicated they were extremely or somewhat comfortable sharing results with their pharmacist (p<0.0001).
Patients, pharmacists, and physicians will all be critical players in the pharmacotherapy process. Patients are supportive of sharing PGx test results with physicians and pharmacists as well as personally maintaining their test results. However, further study is needed to understand which options are needed for sharing, appropriate storage and patient education about the relevance of PGx test results to promote consideration of this information by other prescribing practitioners.
The relationship between the medical and disability communities is complex and is influenced by historical, social, and cultural factors. Although clinicians, health-care researchers, and people with disabilities all work from the standpoint of the best interest of disabled individuals, the notion of what actually is “best” is often understood quite differently among these constituencies. Eugenics campaigns, legal restrictions on reproductive and other freedoms, and prenatal testing recommendations predicated on the lesser worth of persons with disabilities have all contributed toward the historic trauma experienced by the disability community, particularly with respect to medical genetics. One premise of personalized medicine is that different individuals require different solutions. Disabled persons’ experiences are a reminder that these solutions can be best realized by maintaining awareness and sensitivity in a complex ethical and moral terrain. Geneticists should recognize that their research may have implications for those with disabilities; they should recognize the impact of the historical trauma of the eugenics movement, and seek to involve people with disabilities in discussions about policies that affect them. Dialogue can be messy and uncomfortable, but it is the only way to avoid the mistakes of the past and to ensure a more equitable, and healthful, future.
disability; eugenics; healthcare; provider–patient relationship; stigma
Return of individual genetic results to research participants, including participants in archives and biorepositories, is receiving increased attention. However, few groups have deliberated on specific results or weighed deliberations against relevant local contextual factors.
The Electronic Medical Records and GEnomics (eMERGE) network, which includes five biorepositories conducting genome-wide association studies, convened a Return of Results Oversight Committee (RROC) to identify potentially returnable results. Network-wide deliberations were then brought to local constituencies for final decision-making.
Defining results that should be considered for return required input from clinicians with relevant expertise and much deliberation. The RROC identified two sex chromosomal anomalies, Klinefelter Syndrome and Turner Syndrome, as well as homozygosity for Factor V Leiden, as findings that could warrant reporting. Views about returning HFE gene mutations associated with hemochromatosis were mixed due to low penetrance. Review of EMRs suggested that most participants with detected abnormalities were unaware of these findings. Local considerations relevant to return varied and, to date, four sites have elected not to return findings (return was not possible at one site).
The eMERGE experience reveals the complexity of return of results decision-making and provides a potential deliberative model for adoption in other collaborative contexts.
Result return; biorepository; electronic medical records; deliberation; context
Brief, effective models of patient genetic education are needed for common, complex diseases. Using Alzheimer disease as a model, we compared participants’ risk knowledge and recall in extended versus condensed education protocols.
A four-site randomized clinical trial enrolled 280 first-degree relatives of individuals with Alzheimer disease (mean age = 58 years, 71% female); each received lifetime Alzheimer disease risk information (range: 13–74%) that incorporated apolipoprotein E genotype. In the condensed protocol, participants received an educational brochure in place of an in-person education session. Outcomes were assessed at 6 weeks and 6 months following risk disclosure.
The condensed protocol required less clinician time than the extended protocol (mean = 34 min vs. 77 min). The groups did not differ on recall of apolipoprotein E genotype or lifetime risk, and most participants in both groups recalled and retained this information over time. Both groups showed improvement from baseline in Alzheimer disease risk knowledge (e.g., understanding the magnitude of apolipoprotein E genotype effect on risk).
A condensed protocol for communicating genetic risk for Alzheimer disease achieved similar educational results as an extended protocol in this study. Further research should explore the efficacy of brief genetic education protocols for complex diseases in diverse populations.
Alzheimer disease; APOE; genetic counseling; health education; risk communication
A number of genes in the 9q34.11 region may be haploinsufficient. However, studies analyzing genotype–phenotype correlations of deletions encompassing multiple dosage-sensitive genes in the region are lacking.
We mapped breakpoints of 10 patients with 9q34.11 deletions using high-resolution 9q34-specific array comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) to determine deletion size and gene content.
The 9q34.11 deletions range in size from 67 kb to 2.8 Mb. Six patients exhibit intellectual disability and share a common deleted region including STXBP1; four manifest variable epilepsy. In five subjects, deletions include SPTAN1, previously associated with early infantile epileptic encephalopathy, infantile spasms, intellectual disability, and hypomyelination. In four patients, the deletion includes endoglin (ENG), causative of hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia. Finally, in four patients, deletions involve TOR1A, of which molecular defects lead to early-onset primary dystonia. Ninety-four other RefSeq genes also map to the genomic intervals investigated.
STXBP1 haploinsufficiency results in progressive encephalopathy characterized by intellectual disability and may be accompanied by epilepsy, movement disorders, and autism. We propose that 9q34.11 genomic deletions involving ENG, TOR1A, STXBP1, and SPTAN1 are responsible for multisystemic vascular dysplasia, early-onset primary dystonia, epilepsy, and intellectual disability, therefore revealing cis-genetic effects leading to complex phenotypes.
cis-genetics; dystonia; early infantile epileptic encephalopathy; hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia; intellectual disability
The NCI funded cooperative group cancer clinical trial system develops experimental therapies and often collects patient samples for correlative research. The Cooperative Group Bank (CGB) system maintains biobanks with a current policy not to return research results to individuals. An online survey was created, and 10 directors of CGBs completed the surveys asking about understanding and attitudes in changing policies to consider return of Incidental Findings (IFs) and Individual Research Results (IRRs) of health significance. The potential impact of the ten consensus recommendations of Wolf et al. presented in this issue are examined. Re-identification of samples is often not problematic; however, changes to the current banking and clinical trial systems would require significant effort to fulfill an obligation of recontact of subjects. Additional resources, as well as a national advisory board would be required to standardize implementation.