Some of the most common illnesses health systems face like heart disease or cancer can be managed, caught or outright prevented if a provider has the proper insights into a patient’s genome.
This is the promise of a new massive clinical DNA study, pairing 500,000 samples drawn from Intermountain Health’s patient population and analyzing them by deCODE, a subsidiary of Amgen based in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Understanding and screening for hereditary diseases like breast and colon cancer and heart disease, to name a few, requires deep insights into the DNA of a massive patient population. The new collaborative study makes use of Intermountain’s sizeable patient population and its expertise in precision medicine, while deCODE will apply its world-class understanding of genetic data to help deliver more accurate and actionable insights into patient health.
“The research is expected to have a global impact as medications, treatments and healthcare innovations that can benefit patients universally are developed from the findings,” said Dr. Lincoln Nadauld, Intermountain’s chief of precision health. “The collaboration is noteworthy and unique in its size, scope, and immediate application to patient care.”
WHY IT MATTERS
Just like how no two patients are the same, the same can be said for the maladies they experience.
Better genetic insight into a patient makes it easier for clinicians to predict certain illnesses and to prescribe actions meant to head off conditions that can be prevented or mitigated with relatively simple lifestyle or medical changes. Similarly, having a greater understanding of the differences in genetics between patients means physicians will be better able to tailor specific treatment or action plans based on a patient’s individual genetic makeup.
Building a better picture of a patient’s genetics enables a healthcare provider like Intermountain to practice precision medicine, adopting tactics closely tailored to a patient’s own genetic makeup. These improved insights make it easier for doctors to anticipate medical problems before they arrive and to apply treatments most likely to be effective on a patient-by-patient basis.
“This unique collaboration is expected to uncover new insights into some of society’s most debilitating diseases,” noted Dr. Kári Stefánsson, founder and CEO of deCODE genetics. “These potential discoveries will allow deCODE and Amgen to rapidly develop new medicines that reach the right disease targets.”
THE LARGER TREND
Driving population health with genomic research allows health providers to tackle big diseases and other wellness challenges a group of patients may be experiencing.
Better insights means a more granular understanding of the factors that contribute to a patient’s health and to his or her predisposition to certain diseases. Knowing that can empower a doctor to help target those at risk and deploy a personalized care plan.
Large genomic studies have been conducted before with this objective in mind and it seems likely that as major healthcare providers begin to optimize their health IT to spot and confront disease any way they can, genomic testing and analysis can be another data point in the fight for better patient health.
ON THE RECORD
“Better health and being able to cure common diseases is the promise of precision medicine, but it’s not happening fast enough,” said Dr. Marc Harrison, president and CEO at Intermountain Healthcare. “For too long, the genetic code to better health has been locked. This collaboration with deCODE unlocks that insight so we can rapidly advance well-being – not only for ourselves and our families, but for generations to come.”
Benjamin Harris is a Maine-based freelance writer and former new media producer for HIMSS Media.