Are professional societies conflicted about cfDNA?

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.

7_Week_ultrasoundCommercial 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?

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ISPD issues new guidelines for prenatal genome-wide sequencing

pregnancy_dnaGenome-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

Prenatal genetics in global context

Brocher workshop group photo

We’re thrilled to announce the publication of our article summarizing insights from our Brocher Foundation workshop! In December 2015, we held a workshop at the Brocher Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland, on “Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing in the Non-Western Context.” With the participation of experts from around the world, we spent four days learning about the diverse social, economic, political, and cultural contexts in which prenatal cfDNA screening is being introduced globally, and discussed approaches to promote equitable and socially appropriate implementation. Our new article, published in the Hastings Center Report, shares 8 key insights emerging from that workshop.

Continue reading Prenatal genetics in global context

Genetic counselors, genetic interpreters, and conflicting interests

by Katie Stoll, Amanda Mackison, Megan Allyse, and Marsha Michie

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).

Continue reading Genetic counselors, genetic interpreters, and conflicting interests

Recent developments in prenatal genetic testing

Here in the USA, where most of our PIRC collaborators reside, we’ve been pretty preoccupied lately with elections and such. But while we were doing other things, prenatal genomics has continued to produce new research and developments. Here are a couple of them.

Continue reading Recent developments in prenatal genetic testing

See you at #ACMG2016!

ACMG 2016 logo (150x60)-white

We are happy to be well-represented at this year’s national meeting of the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG). Swing by our posters and say hello!

Thursday poster session:
Poster #437
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
Stephanie Meredith

Poster #479
Inaccurate or Unknown Findings from cfDNA Testing: Experiences of Women and Families
Megan A. Allyse

Friday poster session:
Poster #436
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