St. Luke’s University Health Network of Bethlehem, Pa., and Helix, Inc. of San Mateo, Calif., a leader in population genomics, are joining forces to offer precision medicine opportunities to patients in Pennsylvania and New Jersey through a new community health research program.
“We have arrived at a historic turning point in the history of medicine – the ability to use information stored in patients’ DNA to improve the accuracy of certain treatments for the individual patient,” said Dr. Aldo Carmona, St. Luke’s Senior Vice President of Clinical Integration.
Genetic testing has been on the rise in recent years as it enables physicians to guide treatment options for patients with certain conditions, Carmona explained. “The St. Luke’s-Helix partnership will create a unique research program in our region that will greatly expand those capabilities to benefit more patients. We expect the results to allow St. Luke’s to gain important insights about our community, so that we can offer more precise and effective treatment, and design solutions that may prevent disease for years to come.”
The St. Luke’s-Helix community health research program initially aims to enroll 100,000 participants over four years. The individuals who participate will be provided with important health information about their potential risks for serious health conditions such as certain types of cardiovascular disease and cancer, allowing them to make proactive decisions in conjunction with their healthcare provider to potentially delay, reduce or even prevent these conditions from occurring later in life. These include hereditary conditions that often go unrecognized, such as familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (BRCA1 and BRCA2) and Lynch syndrome, a form of colorectal cancer.
For those who provide their informed consent to participate, Helix will apply its end-to-end genomics platform and unique Sequence Once, Query OftenTM model, which allows future genomic tests to be run with a provider’s order without the need to collect an additional sample. This may provide each participant’s provider of choice with information that can be used to tailor care options and prescribe medications with greater accuracy to improve effectiveness.
“St. Luke’s is one of the most innovative healthcare providers in Pennsylvania, and the collaboration is yet another example of St. Luke’s taking the initiative to explore new ways to efficiently improve long-term healthcare while reducing costs,” noted Dr. Carmona. “This research program will provide valuable insights about precision medicine and inform initiatives that may enable early detection of health conditions along with the selection of precise treatment options.”
Participation is voluntary and those participants who receive genetic testing results will be able to seek additional or follow-up care from any health system or provider of their choosing. Researchers will employ safeguards to protect the privacy of all participants and the confidentiality of their data.
“Our partnership with St. Luke’s gives providers and patients access to vital genetic information that can impact not only their lives but their entire families, for generations to come,” said Dr. James Lu, M.D, Ph.D., CEO and co-founder of Helix. “We’re delighted to partner with St. Luke’s and other leading health systems deploying genomics at scale across the United States.”
St. Luke’s joins Helix’s leading group of partner health systems participating in the research, which includes HealthPartners, Memorial Hermann, the Medical University of South Carolina and WellSpan Health. Details regarding participation in the community health research program will be provided to potential participants later this year, prior to the official launch date.