Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Reporter Mary Carmichael, will she do it? Newsweek and DTC Genomics!

" I don't even know if that was a hammer that got dropped on their heads. More like a piano."
-Anon Quote re: DTCG and Congressional hearings....

When Ms. Carmichael approached me to answer a burning question for her. She got an answer alright, more like a diatribe and then and answer.

In case you didn't know, Mary is a writer for Newsweek and is thinking about doing a DTC genetic test kit. In fact, she bought the kit and it is staring her in the face. FYI, she's not in New York, where such activity is illegal, she is in Boston, where it is encouraged......

She is taking opinions from just about everyone in the biz. And, yes, she has a comments section for all those Yahoos who feel left out.......

My recap here is what Newsweek wouldn't put in their print, but as you know.....I am more than happy to put here for my readers enjoyment......

Hi Mary,
You think you are set and ready to get, DTCG'd. Just hold on a second. I think you need to really think about what you can and can't learn from this sort of testing. Some say nothing, others say these little babies hold the secrets that the government is trying to keep from you, other say Google's overlords are plotting to steal your children's DNA.

I want to know, have you thought about it? What can you and what can't you learn? Since I have seen probably more patients with these types of tests than just about any clinician out there, I can tell you what the patients ask and what I tell them.

1. You will not learn what you will die from.

Yes, this is true. As a physician who has counseled and seen patients who have brought me their 23andMe, et.al., one thing is clear, patients ask about what this means they may die from.
This test won't tell you that, in fact most tests won't tell you that, whether ordered via Amazon or through your doctor. This test may show some scientifically linked risks for disease, but again, they won't tell you what you are going to die from.

As an aside, You will die from something. Everyone dies. Even those transhumanist singularity punks die. No amount of knock off stem cell clinics will help with that one. Even the G-Damn Buddha dies. In fact someone off'd him with rotten food....

2. You will not learn what diet is right for you.
Again, you are getting DTCG'd. But if you were getting some of the Nutrigenomics tests I would tell you the same thing, There is no magic diet currently based on 23andMe data or any other genetic data. We do know some people may benefit from some types of diets to lower cholesterol and lose weight, but the science to accurately predict genes and diet is not ready to bring to market, no matter what Proctor and Gamble tell you....

Second aside, Isn't funny how the GAO bashed these nutrigenomics companies in 2006 and they are still out there slinging there proton pills. Goes to show how much force the FDA or any other organization has to control commerce......I wonder what happens to the first batch who refuse to buy health insurance.....You can buy things that give you cancer or an erection, why not DTC tests? Properly regulated of course......

3. You will not learn if you are of the lost tribes of Israel.
True, your hot little hand will get a hold of a J Haplogroup analysis, but even the ancestry experts will tell you, this is a small window into heritage. Only 50% of the Cohanim have the Cohen Modal Haplotype. Is it a start? Yes, maybe a hint. But no SNP test offered by 23andMe will rule that out or in as J.E. Ekins et al stated. It requires extended STR testing.

Ok, my buddy, who shall remain nameless as he is at Camp in PA for his kids right now had a patient come to him adamant she was of the royal lineage of the Czar (Russia). She paid a bundle to have her mito DNA checked.....Guess what? She wasn't........

P.T. Barnum once said
"You can fool some of the people all of the time; you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can never fool all of the people all of the time." But what he forgot to say is, some people are fools all of the time......

What will you learn?

Good Question Mary.

For all intents and purposes, the lab used by 23andMe is CLIA certified, which means its results for positive carrier tests are just as valid as those ordered by a doctor (in some instances). But remember, this test is better at ruling in than ruling out as it often misses carriers in genes such as CFTR for cystic fibrosis. So if they say you are NOT a carrier, don't trust the results. And if it say you are you can always double check with a doctor.

Mary, this is a medical test. And should be held to the same standards as other medical tests.

2. You may learn you carry a rare mutation putting you at significant increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer.
23andMe tests for 3 mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 which could put your risk of breast cancer as high as 85% over your life. Are you ready for what to do with those results if you had them?

Mary, this is a medical tests and I advise you to have some clinician back up when reviewing these results. Even if they are negative, that doesn't rule out a BRCA mutation. This test is confusing and should be regulated as a medical test.

3. You may learn you cannot metabolize medications properly.
23andMe tests for medication metabolism using the same genetic markers as found in other medical tests. Again, they use a CLIA lab, so you may be able to trust their poor metabolizer status. But are you taking Plavix Mary? Tamoxifen? Does it really matter for you now? Or ever?

The whole thing about Pharmacogenomovigilence is that ideally everyone would have a panel of these useful genotypes before dosing medications. But based on the soon to be available rapid turn around time here, we could do these in some labs overnight. The big question here is, is the DTCG test enough of a test to trust clinically?

I am not so certain as they miss certain SNPs and rare mutations that are important.
The Sherpa Says: Ok, Mary. You want it, you got. If you buy a test, you've got a guy just a few Acela Stops away who can help sort out the madness for you.......Clinically of course.....That is, if I haven't convinced you otherwise.....

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