Effort is part of $2M research project funded by National Institutes of Health grant

Last updated: October 09. 2013 11:38PM - 33876 Views
ANDREW M. SEDER aseder@timesleader.com

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Four Geisinger Health System researchers have taken center stage in the national arena of genomics thanks to new funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute, an arm of the National Institutes of Health. It recently awarded three grants totaling $25 million to initiate the Clinical Genome Project.

Completed in April 2003, the Human Genome Project represents a landmark international research effort that mapped the genes that make up human DNA. Today, the Clinical Genome Project is now harnessing data from the hundreds of thousands of clinical genetics tests being performed each year and determining which variants are most relevant to improving patient care.

Contending data can predict heart disease before physicians, IBM will use research done by Geisinger Health System and a National Institutes of Health grant to try to prove its theory.

The computer company, joined by Danville-based Geisinger Health Systems and Sacramento, Calif.-based Sutter Health, has received a $2 million grant to use data and analytics to detect heart disease signs years earlier than is possible today.

The research uses information in electronic health records of patients, using data like demographics, medical history, lifestyle choices and medication to find commonalities and links that may have played a role in heart failure, said Matthew Van Stone, a spokesman for Geisinger.

“By identifying those links it’s our hope we can identify those patients at risk earlier and begin a course of treatment sooner,” Van Stone said.

The patients Geisinger will be looking at are those that saw a Geisinger Primary Care physician and suffered a heart failure.

The research will be done at the Geisinger Medical Research Center in Danville, but patients from throughout Geisinger’s territory, including Luzerne County, will be used. Twenty-six primary care physicians practice in Luzerne County, Van Stone.

Dr. Steve Steinhubl, a Geisinger cardiologist and member of the research team, said earlier research showed signs and symptoms of heart failure are often documented years before a diagnosis. He said the pattern can offer clinically useful signals for early detection, which will lead to better outcomes for patients.

While doctors can spot some trends, involving IBM’s technology can move the medical field forward and provide a “more accurate detection of the early onset of heart failure,” said Shahram Ebadollahi, a co-principal IBM investigator for the project.

Dr. Walter “Buzz” Stewart, Sutter Health’s chief research and development officer and the principal investigator for the project, said, “Heart failure will remain among our nation’s most deadly and costly diseases unless we discover new methods to detect the illness much earlier.”

According to a report by the American Heart Association, the number of people with heart failure could climb 46 percent from 5 million in 2012 to 8 million in 2030. Direct and indirect costs to treat heart failure could more than double from $31 billion in 2012 to $70 billion in 2030.

“If we don’t improve or reduce the incidence of heart failure by preventing and treating the underlying conditions, there will be a large monetary and health burden on the country,” said Dr. Paul A. Heidenreich, professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine and director of the Chronic Heart Failure Quality Enhancement Research Initiative at the VA Health Care System in Palo Alto, Cal.

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