Tuesday, November 30, 2010

23andKari, what the 99 USD subsidy means for Personal Genomics

Yes, Yes.....

Everyones' little heart is a-twitter for the subisdized cost of 23andSerge, now to be known as 23andKari (will tell you why soon) a whopping 99 USD. Which I had been saying is the correct price point for about 2 years now.

Yes, finally, something other than a blimp and million dollar parties will actually pull out the lurkers.....

Here's my take. There was a company in a galaxy far far away, Iceland. That was the toast of the town in 2004. Why? They were collecting genomes for a grand experiment. They were going to discover fantastic links to disease and sell access to the highest bidder.

While they did produce some great Nature papers......what happened to DeCode?
I think we all know.

23andKari has now emerged. The front end.....happy shiny ancestry and disease links.....

I have forgotten to mention that the FDA still hasn't finished working on these companies, have I?

The back end? A database of genomes to cull for disease links to be sold at the highest bidder?

Sound familiar??

And BTW, who owns that genetic data now? Is it getting resold?

I think 23andKari will actually survive. Why? Huge megacorporation investment. That's why.

I have said it before and will again. Why sell Manhattan for bobbles and trinkets?

Because it's cheap, that's why........Hell. IMHO, 23andKari should be paying you for your genome.

The Sherpa Says: Democratization is about to go the way of Russia and it's oligarchs...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

23andMe going infomercial style!

Dan Vorhaus points out the Plan B for 23andSerge!

Personally I love the irony of naming it "Plan B"

MSRP 499, but yours for the low, low price of 99 USD.

QVC, here we come!!!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Respiragene Test and CT Screening for Lung Cancer?

I absolutely think it is beyond fantastic to be able to say to a patient "This is the drug for you"

Or, we need to screen for disease X because of Gene Y and your family history

But what I don't love is companies purporting the import of their special home brew test to do personalized medicine without any sort of data backing them up.

A news report and "AACR Feature" highlighted precisely that. A test with no data......

From the article:

Researchers administered a gene-based predisposition test that incorporates 20 genetic markers associated with smoking-related lung damage and propensity to lung cancer along with clinical factors including age, family history and diagnosis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to derive a risk score on a 1 to 12 scale with higher scores correlating with higher risk.

Ok, new score with 20 markers, family history and age and clinical data....sounds reasonable. Has anyone else validated this tool????

Ahem. Crickets.....

“At scores of 6 or more … only 25 percent of otherwise eligible smokers would be screened but over half of lung cancers would potentially be detected, many in a treatable stage,” concluded Young and colleagues, who suggested that increasing the detection rate of lung cancer per number of patients screened could improve the cost-effectiveness of CT screening.

Ok, so did you get the jump? Did you catch it? "Who Suggested"

This guy who designed a genetic panel AND NEVER TESTED IT IN CONJUNCTION WITH CT CHEST SCREENING, is suggesting that using the test could increase the cost effectiveness of CT Screening, without one single solitary IOTA or shred of evidence of this.

This would be the same Dr. Young who found that genetic testing for a smoking cessation program likely doesn't have cost effectiveness or at best is uncertain.

Last year they were still researching this panel

Yet Respiragene is being held up as a great test!

One word that makes me suspicious is the word "Testamonials"

That word alone reminds me of the time I was bamboozled into going to multi level marketing events for proton pills and the like. You know, they all had lots of "Research" behind them.

Put simply, we do not know if gene screening PRIOR to CT Chest screening for lung cancer does any of the following things

1. Make CT Screening more cost effective

2. Personalizes medicine, targeting radiation to only those who need the test

3. Improves outcomes and detection rates of lung cancer.

That research is not available today. Nor will it be in one year.

My Advice, hold off on this one for now.

The Sherpa Says: Parroting an esteemed researchers OPINION as if it were scientific fact is a great way to get yourself in trouble and an even greater way to confuse the community! But it is the best way to get a test sold.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pulitzer Prize Winner Amy Harmon hosting ethical dilemmas!

How do you face life as a 22 year old if you carry a genetic variant for an incurable illness that will most likely strike in middle age?

That's right,

Amy Harmon is hosting a fantastic course that will be starting November 15th. You better hurry up and register because space is limited and closing on the 14th of November.

What will be covered?

The course will have weekly live online sessions with the instructor as well as self-paced lessons filled with original content covering the weekly topics. All live sessions and course material can be accessed directly within the online course.

Prenatal testing can go into deep detail about an unborn baby’s prospects for the future. How much of this do we want to know? To share?

These questions and more will be addressed. If there is one thing I know. Amy is certainly a fantastic teacher, educator, and discussion leader!

I do miss conversations like those with her!

You too can have that kind of expertise. Register before November 14th!

I am certain you will enjoy this set of topics and have directed many people this way already.

The Sherpa Says: Family history picks up life threatening disease, DTCG tests probably not so much. That being said, what's the ethical quandry with either? Ask Amy and find out!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Consumer Genetic Testing for heart attack risk? Worthless!

Here are the top ten reasons why in its current state, direct to consumer or otherwise, genomic testing for cardiovascular disease risk is dead in the water

1. Family History Risk paints a far better picture and IT IS FREE

2. Reynolds and Framingham risk paint a more accurate picture

3. An independent panel has reviewed 58 variants, 29 genes, and gave the thumbs down.

4. The highest increased risk from any of these tests is 30%, Fam Hx can be as high as 500%

5. Kif6 was just shot down as a useful marker.

6. Clinical Utility has not been evaluated in ANY of these tests.

7. Spit Parties don't lower cholesterol

8. The FDA is hunting down these type of crazy claims!

9 . Topol's heart attack gene didn't pan out, why would these?

10. A recent 23 gene panel failed to make the grade as well.

Let me be crystal clear.

I am glad that the number one reason for ordering a DTCG test was curiosity and not true medical concern in the "early adopters"

But I am concerned that may not be the case for the next wave. I am concerned they will take these genetic tea leaves and use them.

The problem, most of these tests are disproven or will be in the next couple of years.

Loose associations with small increased risks sounds a lot like fortune telling or phrenology. Or hell, even birth order....

Someday we will have good predictive models, 10-15 years from now. But NOT Now! Do you hear that VC country, SV, NYC, Hedgies?

10 year exit strategy. Not 2 not 8. So stop hyping this bull$h!t and go invest in Gold or Commodities or something for the love of god!

The Sherpa Says: Did you hear the one about the research geneticist? He keeps telling his wife how great their sex life WILL BE! Someday we will have this tool, let's try not to burn out and cynicize the public yet.....HT Francis Collins

Friday, November 5, 2010

Family History Better than Navigenics/DTCG Shill for Cancer Genes?


You heard it here. A recent study abstract and pressed about from my friend Charis Eng MD PhD, Clinical Geneticist, Internist and all around really smart lady spoke today about her findings of a head to head, DTCG vs Family History at discovering cancer risk.
I actually sent some data Ken Offit's way about a similar thing way back when, Ken is yet another, really smart guy. He wasn't surprised. Nor was I when I heard Dr. Eng's findings.

First, Caveat Emptor

This is an abstract! Repeat after me......

What does that mean?

1. It is not peer reviewed fully
2. It is not published yet
3. It is preliminary data

This test was Navigenics Compass vs Family History in 22 females with breast cancer, 22 males with prostate cancer and 44 people with colorectal cancer.

What was the result? Family History placed far more people in the proper high risk category. 8:1

Family History put 22 people in the appropriate High Risk Hereditary Category, DTCG only one.

Further, it looks to me that the Navi "Gene" Scan missed several high risk patients who actually had MMR mutations (I.E. Genetic Cancer).....D'Oh.

First off, this is like a case study. But it signals a HUGE shortcoming of DTCG. False reassurance.

I have been beating this over the head for 3 years now! These tests that have "medical" relevance need to be couched with proper medical guidance.

There are huge shortcomings in the current offering of DTCG tests and those offering medical information need to be regulated as medical. This is a classic case in point of potential and REAL missed cases.

Not Good.

That being said. It is November AKA Family History Month. You should absolutely take your family history and bring it to your doctor. If they don't know what to do with it, call us. We do.

The Sherpa Says: No surprises Charis, I saw this with some DTC cases I have had, passed it on to Ken who passed it on to NIH and The IOM. This is the huge problem with hype and over promise. It always fails to deliver, unfortunately in this case at a great risk to consumers.