The UVM Medical Center is conducting a three-year pilot project in which DNA of 1,000 patients will be tested so that, doctors say, heart disease, cancer and other illnesses can be detected and treated as soon as possible. There’s no cost to patients – for now – and the lead doctor is “seeking to avoid the myriad ethical issues that arise with DNA testing.”
"If all goes as planned, Leonard is counting on a large-scale expansion. Over the next decade, she said she hopes to offer DNA tests to about 1 million people in Vermont and New York.
The tests could revolutionize the way doctors identify and treat disease, according to Leonard, who is the chair of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.
For instance, patients with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol, often go undiagnosed for years, she said. Those who never receive a diagnosis die an average of 25 years earlier than similar patients without the condition. A genomic DNA test would identify the disease early on and allow doctors to prescribe medication, Leonard said.
It would also save money. Those with FH often suffer heart attacks; the treatment for a heart attack is substantially more expensive than the routine treatment, according to Leonard."
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