Study will gauge reactions to DNA testing for susceptibility to common disease

16 May 2007

The US National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and National Cancer Institute are teaming with healthcare organisations in the state of Michiganto carry out a research study on how young adults react to DNA test information indicating their genetic risk of common diseases.

The Multiplex Initiative, led by NHGRI behavioural scientist Colleen McBridge, will contact 1000 young people aged 25 to 40 and offer them a free ‘mulitplex’ test for variants in 15 different genes thought to be associated with type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood cholesterol, hypertension, osteoporosis, lung cancer, colorectal cancer and malignant melanoma. Those who respond will be given web-based information to help them decide whether to accept the test offer; if they accept, they will have a personal meeting with an ‘educator’ who will provide more information about risks and benefits and obtain the individual’s informed consent if they wish to go ahead and provide a blood sample for testing.

Participants will receive test results by mail. Follow-up phone calls and interviews will provide help in interpreting results and assess each participant’s response to their genetic risk information. Test results will not become part of the participants’ health care records but they will be free to share their results with their health care provider if they choose to do so.

According to Colleen McBride, “the Multiplex Initiative will inform the field about how to communicate genetic risk to patient populations and will establish an infrastructure for additional research studies aiming to answer social and behavioral questions important for the genome era”. Behavoural responses to genetic test information will be an important part of evaluating the clinical utility of tests.

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