The ASH Practice Partnership is the Society’s network of practice-based hematologists with interests in practice-related policies, quality of care, new health care delivery systems, and practice management issues. The ASH Practice Partnership Lunch is a special session designed for this community, and this year’s topic, “Genomic/Genetic Testing: The Who, What, Where, When, & Why,” will guide attendees through the basics of genetic and genomic testing, discuss genetic testing through the lenses of malignant and nonmalignant hematology, and cover the application of molecular methods in hematologic diseases, using a case-based approach.

Increasing evidence shows that clinical practice has a great deal to gain from genomic data — from diagnosis and prognosis to the development of targeted treatments. Ultimately, however, clinicians can only apply findings that they understand, and to date, the amount and complexity of evidence regarding the role of genomic/genetic testing in hematology has outpaced that understanding. Other barriers to optimal use of genomic/genetic testing, including a lack of clarity on terminology and types of tests, will be discussed.
Joseph Alvarnas, MD (City of Hope, Duarte, CA) is Chair of the Committee on Practice and chairs this special-interest session. “My talk will focus both upon the promise of these technologies,” he said, “as well as the investment of ourselves and our role in reimagining systems of care, to ensure that they provide patients with a meaningful path toward better outcomes.”

Dr. Alvarnas noted that one of the challenges in adapting to the world of genomic/genetic testing lies in clinicians confronting their own lack of understanding, as well as their patients’ preconceptions about this set of technologies. He said that this means relearning, iteratively, how to best match patients to the optimal treatments for their care. “It requires a frank understanding of our knowledge gaps and investment in active learning, and involves digesting an immense amount of clinical data that is emerging at pace that seems unprecedented in the history of medicine,” he said.

There is also the challenge of setting realistic expectations for patients and their families as to what genomic/genetic data actually mean. “These technologies are not magic,” stated Dr. Alvarnas, with the caution that from a patient perspective, what to expect when undergoing genetic/genomic testing has been oversold, giving clinicians the critical task of making sure patient expectations are well managed. “This means that we have to embrace the role of educating patients and their families about what these tests are and what they are not,” he began, “so that we can move forward with the best decisions based upon our best understanding of the available data.”

Session participants will gain key takeaways on genetic/genomic testing and perhaps a deeper understanding of the potential that these emerging technologies possess. “When I trained as a hematologist, what we saw under the microscope often told us much of what we needed to know about how to treat our patients,” said Dr. Alvarnas. “Today, what we see under the microscope tells us what questions we should ask next.”


Learn More

Join your colleagues on Sunday, December 8, from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in Regency Ballroom T-U (Hyatt Regency Orlando; take the skybridge that starts near W206 in the Convention Center – map it), for this informative and forward-looking session.

The Basics of Genetic and Genomic Testing
David Wu, MD, PhD
University of Washington

Genetic Testing in Benign Hematology
Michele P. Lambert, MD
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Genomic Testing in Malignant Hematology
Rebecca McClure, MD
Health Sciences North


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