Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center today announced an agreement with a genome-sequencing company that it hopes will one day make genetic profiling for cancer patients as routine as urine testing.
The hospital and Westborough-based GenomeQuest Inc. have entered into a two-year collaboration whose financial details were not disclosed. Under the model being developed, GenomeQuest will sequence, assemble, and annotate entire genomes from tumor samples and then turn the information over to Beth Israel Deaconess physicians who will interpret the information. The goal of such testing -- and personalized medicine -- is to better guide diagnosis and treatment, including drugs targeted to certain genetic mutations.
Earlier this year Massachusetts General Hospital said it would profile all new cancer patients' tumors. Lung tumor screening began in March.
Genome sequencing at Beth Israel Deaconess will be done first on a research basis, probably next year, in the hope that it can become the standard of care in cancer diagnosis, Beth Israel Deaconess pathologist Dr. Mark Boguski said.
“We don’t want to raise patients’ expectations too soon. This will take a while,” he said.
The human genome was first sequenced 10 years ago. It makes sense to outsource the expensive, technology-intensive components of genome sequencing, Boguski said, just as other rarely performed lab tests are sent out of the hospital.
“Our goal is to make it routine practice,” he said. “To us a genotype is just another piece of laboratory data, like the results of urinalysis or blood tests. It needs to be interpreted in the context of everything we know about that patient.”
Two other Boston hospitals, Brigham and Women’s and Children’s Hospital Boston, offer their patients the opportunity to give researchers a blood sample for genetic testing.
Since last fall, doctors training in pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess have learned about genetic testing while Boguski and others have called for national programs to do the same.
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