The American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM) have issued new guidelines replacing previous guidance on prenatal genetic screening. The guidelines are restricted to subscribers and members. This post summarizes Practice Bulletin No. 226, offers brief commentary, and invites your thoughts on the new guidelines. Continue reading ACOG/SMFM Issue New Guidelines for Prenatal Genetic Screening
Prenatal cfDNA screening, often called NIPT, has given rise to many differences of opinion among professional societies. Recommendations about using cfDNA for prenatal screening have evolved slowly as studies have validated these tests – and, of course, as the tests themselves have changed and expanded over time. ACMG, representing medical genetics and laboratories, has tended to make the most expansive recommendations in favor of cfDNA screening, while ACOG, representing the bulk of obstetricians, has tended to be the most conservative group. Others, like ISPD, have usually fallen between the two extremes.
Commercial cfDNA labs, for their part, have grumbled about what they see as an overly slow pace of accepting this new technology (although, by historical medical standards, it’s actually been quite fast). One of their long-standing complaints has been revived in a just-published commentary in Prenatal Diagnosis. Adam Wolfberg, formerly employed by Ariosa (the makers of the Harmony™ cfDNA screen), argues in this new commentary that professional bodies have an inherent conflict of interest that has led them to resist more enthusiastic recommendation for prenatal cfDNA screening. Maternal-fetal medicine (MFM) specialists, he argues, see their livelihood endangered by this new technology, which threatens to undermine the fetal ultrasounds that are their bread and butter. Continue reading Are professional societies conflicted about cfDNA?
Genome-wide sequencing is increasingly being conducted on fetal tissues, either as whole exome sequencing (WES), whole genome sequencing (WGS), or targeted analysis that uses clinical panels. These kinds of prenatal sequencing are sometimes done when more standard genetic tests have not yielded helpful results to explain structural anomalies, or if a specific genetic condition is suspected that would not be detected through other prenatal tests. While such sequencing is more likely to yield a positive result, it comes with its own set of risks and challenges – for instance, it is more likely to detect variants of unknown significance and other results that lead to excessive testing and stress on parents without significant benefit.
The International Society of Prenatal Diagnosis (ISPD), in conjunction with the Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine (SMFM) and the Perinatal Quality Foundation (PQF), just issued a joint position statement on the use of genome-wide sequencing for fetal diagnosis. While they recognize that sequencing can be useful in some instances, they generally take a cautionary approach. Based on “lessons learned from existing prenatal testing,” along with currently available literature and a panel discussion at the most recent annual ISPD meetings, their consensus opinion includes the following points. Continue reading ISPD issues new guidelines for prenatal genome-wide sequencing
The booming genetic testing industry has created many new job opportunities for genetic counselors. Within commercial laboratories, genetic counselors work in sales and marketing, variant interpretation, as “medical science liaisons” to clinicians, and providing direct patient care. Although the communication skills and genetics expertise of the genetic counselor prepare them well for these roles, they also raise concerns about conflicts of interest (COI).
Thursday poster session:
The National Center for Prenatal and Postnatal Resources: Evaluating the progressive annual utilization of a recommended patient education resource two years after the release of the 2013 ACMG statement on noninvasive prenatal screening for fetal aneuploidy
Friday poster session:
Expanded prenatal cfDNA screening: Genetic counselors’ opinions regarding provider education needs (click here to see poster)
Marsha Michie, Megan A. Allyse, Stephanie A. Kraft, Subhashini Chandrasekharan, and Jessica Mozersky
A new study reports on the impact of noninvasive prenatal genetic screening (“NIPGS”) on referrals for diagnostic testing. It finds plummeting diagnostic testing and more. Continue reading More NIPGS = More Misdiagnoses and Risk