DETROIT – Corewell Health has launched an innovative pilot program to help more of their patients discover their genetic risks for disease -- at no cost to them.
The program will offer gene panel screening to current adult patients at six primary care physician offices in Troy, Westland, Warren, and Dearborn.
“We have 20,000-plus different genes in every cell,” said Dr. Julie Zenger Hain, director of Clinical Genetics at Corewell Health’s Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn. “With this program, we’re looking at 167 actionable genes, meaning genes we can do something about, leading to a better health outcome for the patient.”
Patients at the six participating offices are receiving an invitation by email and to their myBeaumontChart to schedule an appointment with a genetic counselor to talk about the pilot program. Physicians are also discussing the program with patients during their regular appointments.
If a patient expresses interest and gives their consent, a test kit to collect a saliva sample will be sent to their home. The patient then follows the instructions and ships the sample back. Results will be available in two to three weeks.
The screening looks at genes linked to heart disease, cancer, and other treatable medical conditions. The results can allow patients and their doctors to take action years, or even decades before symptoms might appear.
“We’re looking at people before they have symptoms and trying to identify who may be potentially at risk for an underlying genetic disorder,” said Zenger Hain. “This is very similar to what we do in infants with newborn screening. Again, identifying someone that may be at risk for a disease process and taking advantage of the opportunity for prevention and early detection.”
Dr. Stephen Williams’ office in Troy is one of the participating locations. He sees enormous potential in the tests.
“I think this is one of the most important new diagnostic technologies that I will see in my lifetime,” said Williams. “I think this is as important as the development of the x-ray in laboratory medicine and even the stethoscope.”
Williams immediately saw an impact with his own patients.
“The first three people we tested came back with something abnormal, with a variant that we weren’t expecting, so I knew right then and there that we were going to find things that we never were going to find any other way,” said Williams.
That information allows patients and their primary care doctors to create a personalized plan for prevention and if needed, stepped-up screenings.
“This is an incredible tool that I think will be invaluable to people for all future generations,” said Williams.
So far, some 500 patients at the six locations have been tested. The goal is to complete one thousand tests by the end of June.
“Based on results to date, we hope to expand this pilot to 10,000 patients over the next two to three years and determine if it should become a standard tool for health care moving forward,” said Dr. Richard Kennedy, program lead and director of research at Corewell Health in southeast Michigan.
For more information on Corewell Health’s genetic program or to schedule an appointment with a genetic counselor, click here.
The test being used in this pilot program is the OrageneTM•Dx. It’s commercially available to patients with a doctor’s prescription. It costs ~$350 out-of-pocket.