Why researchers want your genome

By Leslie Fisher, The Daily

In possibly the largest research project in human history, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “All of Us” program will gather information on one million individuals’ genomes. The UW’s Northwest Genomics Center will become one of three centers for this research.

The goal is to advance precision medicine, which analyzes a person’s genome to determine which drugs or treatments are likely to work best on them. In addition, patients can find out if they’re at a higher risk for certain diseases.

“All of us are unique, but today we live mostly in an era of ‘one-size-fits-all’ medicine,” All of Us project director Eric Dishman said. “I’m alive today because of precision medicine, and I think everyone deserves that same opportunity no matter the color of your skin, your economic status, your age or sex or gender.”

At 19, Dishman was diagnosed with kidney cancer and predicted to have nine months left to live. He went through multiple rounds of treatments for the next 23 years. Seven years ago, when his kidney was about to collapse, a researcher sequenced his genome and his tumor to look for clues to better treatments.

As a result, Dishman began taking an experimental drug normally used to treat a different type of cancer. He says he is healthier now at 50 than he was at 19.

Since May, over 133,000 participants have submitted their genomes. Half of these participants are racial and ethnic minorities, which may help reverse the historic trend of including a disproportionately large number of white men in clinical trials and other health studies. Read more …