LHSC launches genetic lab tests across North America for a range of diseases and disorders

bekim sadikovic

Dr. Bekim Sadikovic, Head of Molecular Genetics, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at LHSC, who developed the multi-gene panel technology.

A multi-gene panel technology developed by London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) is now available through the global life sciences company LabCorp®. Dynacare, a LabCorp company based in Toronto, has entered into an agreement with LHSC to perform genetic testing for Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease, epilepsy, and mitochondrial disorders at its Canadian genetics laboratory. The distribution and licensing agreement provides Dynacare with exclusivity to offer the multi-gene panel tests for patients in parts of Canada, and throughout the U.S.

“It is extremely rewarding to be chosen by a world-class diagnostic solutions company for use of our in-house developed technology,” says Dr. Bekim Sadikovic, Head of Molecular Genetics, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at LHSC. “It’s also incredibly significant to know that because of LHSC’s expertise in the field, these genetic tests will become more accessible for people across North America.”

Availability of these genetic tests outside of Ontario through this licensing agreement will not only generate revenue for LHSC that can be used to fund further advances in patient care, but will also lead to benefits for patients and care providers as a result of the rich database of genetic biomarkers that will be interpreted and housed by LHSC’s lab. Analysis of that database, which will grow over time as more tests are performed, will allow LHSC, LabCorp and Dynacare researchers and clinicians to better understand how different genetic mutations influence disease, with the potential to help inform decisions on the best course of treatment for each patient.

“Even after identifying a genetic mutation, it can sometimes be difficult to interpret exactly how damaging that mutation is – we call that ‘variances of uncertain significance’,” says Dr. Peter Ainsworth, physician, Cancer Genetics Clinic at LHSC. “What happens as you accrue and interpret a greater volume of data is that you gain the ability to learn more about these variances and exactly how they impact the cells, so you are then better able to more quickly and accurately come to a diagnosis. For LHSC, the increase in data volume through this agreement means that our team of genetic interpreters will further advance their expertise in genetic data interpretation. For our genetics patients, this will ultimately improve the speed to an accurate diagnosis for a wider range of disorders.”

Over the past few years, LHSC has achieved significant advancements in genetic lab testing for a range of diseases and disorders, pioneering the development of Canadian-made technology and becoming a centre of excellence for a number of genetic testing areas.

Genetic testing is a type of medical testing that identifies mutations, or changes, in chromosomes, genes and proteins. These mutations are increasingly understood to lead or contribute to the development of many medical conditions and diseases, including many types of cancer and other, often life-threatening, illnesses. The results of testing can help determine an individual’s likeliness of developing or passing on a genetic disorder, can confirm or rule out a suspected genetic condition, and can help identify the most appropriate treatment for each individual patient based on their particular genetic makeup.

Using in-house expertise, LHSC became the first clinical lab in Canada to develop a multi-gene panel test that offered the high degree of sensitivity required to produce accurate results. Prior to this technological advancement only single-gene panel tests offered the same sensitivity level, which often meant that physicians would have to send multiple samples to labs located outside of Canada for a series of separate tests. Use of this new technology by LHSC in 2014 redefined the clinical gold standard for genetic testing – reducing costs and delivering accurate results in an expedient manner.

Dr. Sadikovic had first applied this multi-gene panel approach to establish LHSC as a provincial reference lab for hereditary cancer genetics screening. Since achieving that milestone, the lab team at LHSC continued to build on their expertise and became a centre of excellence for mitochondrial genome sequencing for metabolic disorders and genetic testing for peripheral neuropathy disorders.

Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (PALM) is a joint venture of LHSC and St. Joseph’s Health Care London.

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