Genetic testing at UVMMC aims to improve patient care

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New testing at the University of Vermont Medical Center will help determine the role DNA plays in your health.

“We want to improve people’s lives,” said Dr. Debra Leonard, chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

For the past year and a half, she’s been working along with a team of physicians and specialists to develop Genomic DNA Testing.

“It really is to integrate genetic information into routine medical care,” she said.

Dr. Leonard said that information can be very helpful in improving outcomes for patients if they know their disease risk in advance. The testing will allow patients to learn about differences in their DNA that can make certain diseases more likely.

“What we will be focusing on is diseases related to the heart and diseases related to cancer risk,” Dr. Leonard said.

UVM Health Network is partnering with Invitae and LunaPBC on the project which will provide information on nearly 150 genes that are indicators for illnesses. The goal is to recognize if a patient is at risk for one of those diseases before they actually experience their first symptom, allowing doctors to intervene early and make informed decisions.

“So we can use preventive strategies or close monitoring to catch the diseases earlier or even implement strategies to prevent the diseases,” she said.

Right now, the testing is in its beginning phases. Last Friday, it was offered to the first patient, who agreed to have their blood drawn and sent out for testing, fully funded by the department. Over the next year, UVMMC is aiming to test 1,000 patients ages 18 and older.

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