BOUNTIFUL, Utah – The largest DNA study in the country has begun in Utah. Doctors believe it can change the way they deliver future health care and hopefully prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
A mother from Bountiful explained why she wants her family to participate.
For Elissa Smith, family is everything. She is a mother of four and the eldest child of Durward Wadsworth, born in St. George.
KSL told his story 18 months ago when he participated in Intermountain Healthcare’s HerediGene Population Study after beating colon cancer.
Wadsworth underwent 12 courses of chemotherapy at the Dixie Regional Cancer Center.
“It’s not a nice treatment,” he said.
Since then, 78-year-old Wadsworth has developed lung cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy again.
“And this time he’s been a champion, but it’s taking its toll,” said his daughter, Elissa Smith. “My dad has gotten to a point where he just has to keep doing chemotherapy to stay alive, actually.”
Smith’s 14-year-old son, Craige Smith, was devastated by his grandfather’s diagnosis.
“It was just really hard,” he said. “He’s a really cool guy… we make such good memories with him. I want to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. “
Smith said her father’s diagnosis has affected all three generations.
“It was life-changing because the cancer diagnosis, what I’m learning is that it affects not only the person who has cancer, but the whole family,” she explains, increasing the likelihood that other family members will have similar genes. “My chances of getting cancer, my husband’s, are very high. It is one of the greatest killers. “
That’s why Smith, her husband, and their four children recently participated in the HerediGene study, which aims to help doctors better predict and prevent human disease through genes with a simple blood draw.
“It’s very powerful to have information from both children and their parents, because then we can understand how things work through the generations,” said Dr. Lincoln Naudald, medical oncologist at Intermountain Healthcare and a vice president and chief executive officer. the precision care and academics department.
Naudald hopes to map the human genome of more than 500,000 participants.
As of Thursday, Intermountain has enrolled more than 60,000 study participants.
“That’s actually more participants in a single study than in all of our other studies combined,” said Naudald.
Children have now been added to the study and there is no age limit on who can participate.
Naudald expects to enroll up to 50,000 children and their parents.
The study now includes children and has no age limits for who can participate. Naudald expects to enroll up to 50,000 children and their parents.
“Knowing who carries which genes is critical because then we can take better care of them and help them really live their healthiest lives,” he said.
Naudald believes the study has the potential to even prevent strokes, heart attacks and liver failure.
In other cases, such as cancer, “we can treat it when it’s very early and it’s so easy to cure,” he said, changing the outcome of genetic diseases in the future.
“It will continue to help generations to come for decades to come,” he said. ‘We talk about condition X, Y or Z in our family so often, right? We tell those stories at our family gatherings, and now we can do something about it. “
Smith believes this is the future of medicine.
“Things like this can make the biggest difference, and maybe we can finally beat cancer,” she said.
As great as the Dixie Regional Cancer Center is, Smith hopes that one day a building will be bulldozed or used for something else once cancer is eradicated.
“This research study tries to take away some of the worst outcomes in healthcare so that we never experience them,” said Naudald.
Craige Smith said the blood draw was worth it.
“You know, at the end of the day you might be helping someone heal from cancer,” he said. “If it could save the life of one of my children – why not?”
“It may not change my life, but I really hope it changes my grandchild’s life,” Elissa Smith said. “I hope they don’t have to watch me go through cancer.”
So far, the HerediGene team has mapped the genomes of 10,000 people.
“We’ve mapped all 3 billion pieces of their DNA so we know where there are errors or mistakes, and we know better what health problems they might be dealing with,” Naudald said.
Intermountain said they have already made important discoveries.
“We found 200 people who carry a gene that puts them at a very high risk of developing breast cancer or ovarian cancer. We have found other people who will have a stroke or a heart attack. We have other people who are going to have liver problems, liver failure, ”he said.
They plan to give that information back to the patient and put them in touch with a genetic counselor who can help those patients avoid the disease through screening programs, medications or lifestyle choices, Naudald said.
They expect that 2-3% of the participants will be made aware of an immediate health risk, which will be addressed with the help of a genetic counselor.
Those interested can visit an Intermountain lab or call 1-833-698-1727.