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A special session at the 71st AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo seeks to educate clinical laboratory professionals on direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests, a field experiencing rapid growth with many new applications that isn’t always well understood by the very individuals using them.

Labs play an important role in helping consumers navigate the DTC landscape, Linnea Baudhuin, PhD, ABMG, a consultant in laboratory medicine and pathology and medical genetics at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told CLN Stat. Baudhuin, a member of the Annual Meeting Organizing Committee (AMOC), was the organizer of this special session, Consumer Genomics, Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Testing, and Patient Empowerment.

Consumers and healthcare providers need to be aware of the differences between diagnostic and consumer-initiated genetic tests, as well as limitations and risks of consumer-initiated genetic testing. These include privacy risks, inaccuracies, and incompleteness of testing. “Since we are clinical laboratory professionals, we should be well-versed in how consumer genomic tests may differ from the tests that we offer in the clinical laboratory,” said Baudhuin. “We should be prepared to receive questions about consumer genomic tests and be able to knowledgeably speak to the differences between consumer and clinical-grade genomic tests when clinicians and consumers approach us with questions.”

Moderated by Cathy Wurzer, host of “Morning Edition” for Minnesota Public Radio’s MPR News, the session’s presenters will address these crucial issues related to DTC tests. Jill Hagenkord, chief medical officer of Color Genomics in Mountainview, California, will discuss the regulatory aspects, business models, and limitations and intended uses of consumer genetic tests. Theodora Ross, MD, PhD, director of cancer genetics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and author of A Cancer in the Family: Take Control of Your Genetic Inheritance, will address how consumer genetic testing fits into medical care.

Both speakers are medical doctors experienced in the fields of consumer genomics. Serving as chief medical officer of Color Genomics and 23andMe, Hagenkord “has a wide variety of experiences in what it takes to bring consumer genetic tests to market and keep them there,” Baudhuin said. Ross has a great deal of knowledge about the pros and cons of consumer genomic testing as it relates to the management and treatment of patients with cancer.

Wurzer plans to engage both speakers and the audience in conversation. “The session can and will take some surprising turns, especially with the audience engagement. I’m looking forward to a robust and memorable session,” she told CLN Stat.

AMOC saw this as a timely topic, well-suited for the AACC Annual Scientific Meeting audience, Baudhuin said. “We hope that there will be a high interest in this topic, both from a consumer and laboratory professional perspective,” she said.

The special session will take place August 4 from 3:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the 71st AACC Annual Scientific Meeting & Clinical Lab Expo and is worth 1 ACCENT credit hour.