Q+A: Genetic Testing and Medical Treatment

QUESTION: I recently found out I was adopted. My birth father has passed away and my mom just passed away this past January. She had lung cancer. I would be very interested in finding out what diseases might affect me since I have an unknown medical background on my fathers side.

Couldn't this type of testing be done routinely for adopted individuals who do not know anything about their medical backgrounds?-- Shelly, Birmingham Ala.

ANSWER: In the future, genetic testing may be useful for those who do not have a complete family history of diseases, since it can give some information about the genetic components of disease risk. However, it will not be able to detect the complex environmental factors that also influence peoples' risk for disease. -- Colleen McBride

QUESTION: I was diagnosed with protein losing enteropathy approx. 9 years ago, with no disease present. Would this testing tell be why my auto-immune system stopped working, and what I can do to get it re-started? -- Penny, Sturgeon Bay, WI

ANSWER: No this test would not give you any information about your auto-immune system. These are questions best taken up with your doctor. -- Colleen McBride

QUESTION: Do you think HMO's like Kaiser Permente will be using this in the future to help patients prevent diseases, therefore cutting health care costs and increasing profits for them? -- Jason, Northglenn, Colorado

ANSWER: The honest answer here is that we don't know. We are conducting this research study to try to begin understanding whether this use of genetic testing is likely to have health benefits.

Whether it will actually be useful in practice remains and open question. The research that you heard about last night is intended to see if these tests are useful to patients. This is only the first step in learning whether genetic tests like this have any health benefits for patients.

The hope is that such testing will help patients prevent diseases and this type of research will tell us how to do that. In the ideal, patient consumers would benefit from savings in health care costs and be healthier as well. -- Colleen McBride

QUESTION: Exactly what genes and SNPs are being tested in the Ford Hospital Study?

ANSWER: If you are interested in the details of our study, including information about what genes and SNPs are included in the test, please visit our Web site at: https://multiplex.nih.gov/ -- Colleen McBride

QUESTION: Do the laboratories that offer these tests have any governmental/professional oversight? Do these companies have genetic counselors or other clinically trained geneticists to interpret/explain results to patients?

I am a genetic counselor and am very concerned about how these tests are being advertised and offered to the general public -there is tremendous risk for misinterpretation of these tests without the proper oversight and counseling. -- Cheryl, Troy, Mi.

ANSWER: In the case of the study described in last night's broadcast, we are following government regulations for returning quality genetic test results to our participants.

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