DANVILLE — A new DNA screening program at Geisinger had its first patient sign up Tuesday — Geisinger President and CEO David T. Feinberg.
According to Geisinger, the program is the first of its kind in the nation.
The DNA screening will become part of routine health checkups, with the purpose of screening for gene variations linked to different diseases. This information will help Geisinger physicians provide better treatment, or even assist the prevention of diseases in their patients.
“Understanding our genome’s warning signals will become an essential part of managing our health,” Feinberg said in a press release. “Participants can now work with their physicians to deal with what their genome reveals long before they become sick. That might involve making lifestyle changes to reduce their risks or understanding future health care needs. This allows us to provide truly anticipatory health care, instead of only reacting when it may be too late to change the outcome.”
For the DNA screening, the patients would consent to an exome sequencing test. An exome is a very small portion of a person’s DNA. Physicians then analyze changes in the exomes, which could show potential risk for disease including different types of cancer and heart problems. The results would be reported back to the patient and become part of their medical record.
Prior to this, the screening was only a part of Geisinger’s research program MyCode Community Health Initiative. Through MyCode, 200,000 participants contributed DNA to a biobank, which researchers studied for relationships between genes and disease. The program reported results to more than 700 of the participants, due to significantly increased risks of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Geisinger expects that between 2 percent and 4 percent of adult patients will learn of a potentially disease-causing change through the screening test.
The program is being launched at the Internal Medicine Clinic at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, as well as the Kistler Clinic in Wilkes-Barre.