Darius J. Adams, M.D.
Director, Jacobs Levy Equity Management Personalized Genomic Medicine Program
Atlantic Health System
For decades, personalized genomic medicine has been utilized to detect genetic problems during pregnancy, identify genetic conditions prior to conception or reveal a family history of illness or disease.
“Now, as the number of genetic tests continues to grow, personalized genomic medicine is expanding to much broader applications that have the potential to transform the future of medicine entirely,” observes Darius J. Adams, M.D., director of Atlantic Health System’s Jacobs Levy Equity Management Personalized Genomic Medicine Program. “It will have a profound impact on preventive care. We can assess the risk of developing certain cancers and diseases later in life and minimize those risks before they become an issue.”
In 2012, for example, actress Angelina Jolie announced that she underwent a double mastectomy after genetic testing revealed that she was a carrier for BRCA 1 – a gene known to substantially increase the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. Considering that there was a family history of the diseases (Jolie’s mother died of ovarian cancer at age 56), she chose to proactively minimize her risk.
“Of course, there are many ethical considerations that go along with genomic medicine,” cautions Dr. Adams, a clinical and biochemical geneticist. “Although we have the potential to unlock a person’s entire hereditary information, or genome, would you want to know every disease you are at risk for developing, including those with no known cure? It’s a very personal decision and requires very frank discussions with a geneticist or genetic counselor.”
Atlantic’s Personalized Genomic Medicine Program takes a thoughtful approach to the process, explains Dr. Adams, by applying technologies that yield the most benefit to patients. For example, personalized genomic medicine is increasingly being used at Overlook to customize pharmacological treatment plans. By analyzing genes as well as tumors to determine how they metabolize drugs and how the tumor cells grow, doctors can deliver drugs and dosages with more precision and better outcomes. This can dramatically reduce a patient’s adverse or allergic reactions to medications, and is particularly beneficial for cancer patients who are sensitive to certain chemotherapy drugs.
“Eventually, genomic medicine will be used to customize treatment protocols for many conditions that have genetic causes,” remarks Dr. Adams, adding that the program serves physicians and patients in many subspecialties, including cardiology, neurology, pediatrics and oncology.
In addition to participating in clinical trials for more advanced therapeutics, Atlantic’s Personalized Genomics Medicine Program serves as a Newborn Screening Referral Center, performing confirmatory testing for 47 out of 54 genetic conditions for which every baby born in New Jersey is tested after birth.
“There are quite a few centers in the U.S. offering genetic testing in the more traditional sense, focusing on maternal-fetal and pediatrics areas; but when it comes to personalized genomic medicine, few are as far along the path as Overlook,” Dr. Adams comments.
“It’s the dawn of a new era in medicine and I’m delighted that Overlook is looking beyond the horizon.”
For more information about The Jacob Levy Equity Management Personalized Genomic Medicine Program, call (908) 522-6289 or visit www.atlantichealth.org, keyword Personalized Genomic Medicine.