News / Health

Human Genome Sequencing Helps Doctors Determine Treatment

New developments show the promise of personalized medicine

Timothy Ley , MD (left) and Richard Wilson, PhD, looking at a flow cell in the genome sequencing lab. They and their Washington University colleagues have shown the power of sequencing cancer patients' genomes as a diagnostic tool.
Timothy Ley , MD (left) and Richard Wilson, PhD, looking at a flow cell in the genome sequencing lab. They and their Washington University colleagues have shown the power of sequencing cancer patients' genomes as a diagnostic tool.
Art Chimes

Sequencing the human genome - making a detailed map of all of a person's genes - is less than a decade old. The technology brings with it the promise of personalized medicine. Now, scientists are reporting some of the first cases of medical decisions based on information from sequencing the patient's entire genome.

The patient had leukemia. But there were some inconsistencies in the biopsy. In that case, the usual procedure is to go with the more aggressive therapy - here, a bone marrow transplant.

Richard Wilson heads the Genome Center at Washington University in Saint Louis, whose doctors treated the leukemia patient.

"When the patient was referred here for a bone marrow transplantation, her physician thought, you know, this is a case where I think we can go deeper," he says. "I think that the genome-sequencing technology that we're doing here at Washington University is mature enough, that we could actually apply it to this case. And we could make sure that this is a patient who really needs the bone marrow transplant, and couldn't just be treated with a particular drug."

In fact, the genetic sequencing identified an abnormality that can be effectively treated by a drug, and the patient's leukemia is now in remission.

Wilson is co-author of two papers in the journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, describing how doctors used information gleaned from sequencing a patient's genome.

In the second case, the patient died at age 42 after a series of different cancers. After her death, her whole genome was sequenced and showed a mutation in a gene that is important in suppressing tumors.

"The concern is that it could also be a mutation that could be passed on to her children," Wilson says. "And through the nature of the mutation and understanding the gene, we thought that this might be information that might be very useful to their family physician. You know, if a physician is armed with that information, they are going to suggest that, for example, a young woman might want to have more aggressive breast cancer screening."

Although whole-genome sequencing provided useful information for doctors in these cases, Wilson says much more needs to be done on the research side - in particular, a lot more cancer-patient sequencing to better understand what has gone wrong, and what to do about it.

"And I expect that the ability to actually do that and have it not be a ridiculously expensive endeavor, is not that far in the future," he says.

Cancer specialist Boris Pasche of the University of Alabama at Birmingham says it all depends on how much cheaper the procedure gets.

"The costs of whole-genome sequencing have decreased by 100-fold in barely two years and a half. If we assume that there will be continuous decrease in the cost of this technology, then within the next five years it could be conceivable that any if not all new cancer patients could be assessed with this technology."

Pasche comments on this potential new tool in a JAMA editorial. He calls cancer treatment the "first test bed" for genome-based personalized medicine. Washington University's Richard Wilson says other candidates for this approach include diabetes and various neurological disorders.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More