Friday, November 28, 2008

Translational Medicine, Cancer and Biobanks: Predictive Health Ethics Events at IU

On December 1-2, 2008 the Indiana Health Industry Forum will present From Basics to Bench to Bedside: Emerging Trends and New Developments in Cancer Discovery, Diagnosis and Treatment. The purpose of this summit, the third in a series, is to examine the state of life sciences research in Indiana with a diverse range of individuals and institutions interested in cancer research, diagnosis and treatment. Of particular interest to those keen on predictive health is a panel discussion on December 2nd at 1:00 PM entitled “Tailored Therapeutics and Implications for Regulatory Endpoints.” Panelists include Jerome Yates, MD, MPH, National Vice President for Research at the American Cancer Society, Eric Meslin, PhD, Director of the Indiana University Center for Bioethics (IUCB), Lawrence Lesko, PhD, FCP, Director of the Office of Clinical Pharmacology at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, and Silvana Borges, MD, Medical Officer for the Genomics Group of the same.
On December 4, 2008 the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute and IU Simon Cancer Center are hosting a symposium entitled Biorepositories: Scientific, Technical and Ethical Considerations at the Cancer Research Institute on the Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis campus. IUCB Faculty Investigator Jennifer Girod, JD, PhD, RN, will be giving a talk on “Ethical and Legal Considerations in Biobanking.” Other presentations will address issues specific to the storage of biospecimens, the extraction and processing of RNA and DNA, tissue procurement, the impact of storage conditions on DNA, and the benefits of biorepositories to research.

On December 8- 9, 2008 the Indiana University School of Medicine will be holding an event that addresses the FDA in the 21st Century: Issues and Their Impact on Medical Technology. This event, which will focus on the future role of the FDA in a changing market, is part of the medical school’s Medical Technology Leadership Forum [Flyer - PDF]. IUCB Director Eric Meslin, PhD, will be moderating a morning session on December 9th specific to ethics and conflicts of interest with Ora Pescovitz, MD, President and CEO of Riley Hospital for Children and Elazar Edelman, MD, PhD, Director of the Harvard-MIT Biomedical Engineering Center. – Amy Lewis Gilbert

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Genetic Privacy: T.J. Maxx and the NIH

What do T.J. Maxx, the V.A. and NIH have in common? They have all been involved in handling personal data in such a way that individual privacy and confidentiality may have been violated. In December 2006 the financial information of over 40 million customers of T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s was accessed by a hacker potentially exposing customers to identity theft. Also in 2006, a laptop computer containing personal information including names, addresses, dates of birth and social security numbers for 38,000 veterans went missing. This past August, large amounts of aggregate human DNA data that the National Institute of Health and other groups had made open to researchers around the world was removed from public view due to privacy concerns. The reason behind this removal was a study (doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000167) released by the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the University of California showing that using an algorithm and a microarray a curious individual could possibly identify whether or not an individual’s DNA was in a genome wide association study (GWAS) database.

Why does this matter? NIH and other groups conducting GWA studies know that one of the core ethical components of their work, and a critical element for convincing people to participate in these studies, is being able to promise that their personal medical and genetic information will not be compromised and will never be used in such a way that might cause them harm. Being able to demonstrate, for example, that a representative of law enforcement armed with a DNA sample from a crime scene could search an existing NIH database for a sample match and be successful, undermines this promise in a way that might give us all pause. Researchers will still have access to the data, but they will now have to apply for access to the data and agree to protect the confidentiality of the data.

As researchers strive to use the information gained by the Human Genome Project for the improvement of health care and the prevention and treatment of disease, more and more of us will be asked to participate in efforts to establish enormous databases of our genotypic (DNA) and phenotypic (medical records) information. I still shop at Marshall’s, but I am not sure I will be giving my DNA anytime soon. --Kimberly A. Quaid

Monday, November 17, 2008

Patient Attitudes Toward Genotyping: Willingness to Donate

The November 2008 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology included an article addressing an Indiana University study which sought to ascertain the willingness of women to donate DNA specimens. The article, “Patient Attitudes Toward Genotyping in an Urban Women’s Health Clinic” (David M. Haas, Jamie L. Renbarger, Eric M. Meslin, Katherine Drabiak, and David Flockhart), acknowledges the great promise of the emerging fields of genotype association studies and pharmacogenetics, which will theoretically allow for targeted medical interventions, personalized drug therapies and the more efficient allocation of healthcare resources. The study compared women’s willingness to donate DNA specimens via blood and saliva collection, and looked at several other factors to confirm the findings of previous studies regarding which of those factors predicate a willingness to donate. The authors found that more women are willing to donate DNA using saliva than blood, and that higher levels of education (college and beyond) and greater knowledge of genes and DNA increase women’s willingness to donate.

So how do these findings translate into ethical practice? How will they inform the future collection of samples for both medical and research purposes? It seems that researchers and practitioners should bear in mind that less-invasive methods of DNA procurement are preferred, and that education about purpose and use be stressed during the informed consent process. When asked about the translational implications of this study, Dr. Eric Meslin, co-author and Director of the Indiana University Center for Bioethics, said: “the key to success in any biobanking effort lies in the scientific community’s ability to both acquire and maintain the public’s trust. Informed consent may be evidence of the public’s willingness to permit specimens to be used for research, but consent should never be confused with the public’s willingness to trust science to do the right thing.” -Amy Lewis Gilbert

Friday, November 7, 2008

Genetic Testing and Personalized Drugs: PredictER at Spirit and Place

As part of the 2008 Spirit & Place Festival, a panel of experts from the Indiana University Center for Bioethics and the Indiana University School of Medicine will join together to illustrate the complex intersection of ethics, medicine and science. Dr. Eric M. Meslin, director of the Center for Bioethics; Dr. Kimberly A. Quaid, professor of medical and molecular genetics; and Dr. David Flockhart, chief of the division of clinical pharmacology, will present Imagining Our Medical Future: The Ethics of Predictive Genetic Testing and the Search for Personalized Drugs this Sunday, November 9th, 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the Indiana Medical History Museum, 3045 W. Vermont Street, Indianapolis. Free tours of the museum will be available both before and after the panel discussion. More information regarding the Spirit & Place Festival, which is runs now through November 16th, is available at - ALG