Nebraska Medicine launches high-tech effort to provide precision care

Nebraska Medicine joins other health systems nationwide to launch the Genetic Insights Project in partnership Helix, a nationally renowned organization that leads population health and genomics.

Nebraska Medicine joins other health systems nationwide to launch the Genetic Insights Project in partnership Helix, a nationally renowned organization that leads population health and genomics.

Imagine being able to find out your risk for a variety of cancers and other potentially life-threatening diseases with a single test. That’s the reality of a new program offered by Nebraska Medicine — a program that not only will help improve the lives of individual patients, but also identify trends for everyone across the region. It’s called the Genetic Insights Project.

Allison Cushman-Vokoun, MD, PhD

“This new technology will help patients and their providers understand if they’re genetically predisposed to having an increased risk of one of several significant diseases,” said  Allison Cushman-Vokoun, MD, PhD, medical director of Nebraska Medicine’s Molecular Diagnostics and Human Genetics Laboratories and professor in the UNMC Department of Pathology and Microbiology. “The Genetic Insights Project is a fundamental step in being able to provide patients with precision care. The project’s large-scale information will also help unlock DNA trends for the entire community — protecting more people from heart-related issues and cancer — for years to come.”

The Genetic Insights Project will provide important information about serious health conditions by testing for mutations in genes connected to a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer, Lynch syndrome (which is related to colorectal cancer) and high cholesterol. The program will also expand its panel of genetic markers in the future, potentially providing information about other conditions.

“This information will let people make proactive decisions about their own health,” said Kyle Skiermont, PharmD, Nebraska Medicine vice president of operations and assistant dean for clinical affairs at the UNMC College of Pharmacy. “This will potentially delay, reduce or even prevent these things from happening later in life. We’ll also be able to better understand and treat conditions affecting the entire population of the state.”

The goal of the new program is to enroll 100,000 people over five years, which would make it the largest population health program in Nebraska. There will be no cost associated with the project to any participant involved, and participation is completely voluntary. The Genetic Insights Project is a partnership with Helix, a nationally renowned organization that leads population health and genomics across the United States. The Helix platform allows for future genomics testing to be run without having to retest patients. This will give providers and patients access to ongoing insights about their health throughout their lifetime.

“Other programs found that 1 in 75 participants discovered they had one of these serious, genetic conditions, of which 90 percent wouldn’t have been found through traditional methods,” said James Lu, MD, PhD, CEO and co-founder of Helix. “Additionally, population-wide screening is cost-effective for many people in preventing cancer and cardiovascular events. With this launch, Nebraska Medicine will be going beyond standard medical practice to let all patients and their providers take greater control of their health.”

J Amks g