4 posts tagged “23andme”

Learning Your Personal Genetics: An Interview with PGen Study Participant PF Anderson

Posted June 29th, 2012 by

Recently, PatientsLikeMe sent a message to our members about an opportunity to participate in the Impact of Personal Genomics (PGen) Study, led by researchers at Harvard and the University of Michigan.  Each of the 1,000 study participants receives personal genomic testing services at a significantly subsidized discount.  Using a series of surveys, the investigators will then look at the risks and benefits of learning this information.  What, for example, will participants do with their discoveries?  Will they make health behavior changes?  Will they tell anyone – and if so, who?

PGen Study Participant PF Anderson

PatientsLikeMe member PF Anderson decided to not only join the study, which has now reached its maximum enrollment, but to also start a blog about her experience.  Find out why and much more in our interview below.

1.  What led you to participate in the PGen study?

The “why,” for me, had three main drivers. First, I’ve been ill for over a decade, and only recently tracked it down to what appears to be celiac disease, but all the blood tests have come back negative for both celiac and gluten-intolerance or wheat allergy. Second, I am both a medical librarian and an emerging technologies librarian. I firmly believe in supporting research both by doing it and also by serving as a subject when appropriate. This project matches my professional interests in several areas, not the least of which has been an emerging awareness of the essential nature of personal genomics and big data to moving research and discovery forward, especially in the areas of rare diseases. Third, curiosity. My family seems to be packed to the gills with various genetic conditions, and I’ve always thought we’d make an interesting study!

2.  Talk about the decision to blog about the study as well.

Why blog? Because, assuming that this IS an important area for research to change the lives of real people, then it is absolutely critical to educate, inform, and openly dialogue about the risks and benefits of personal genomics. Some people I talk with are quite worried about some aspects, while others aren’t even thinking about potential risks! I’m in the middle. I know there are risks, I’m aware that the benefits we hope for in the long term aren’t here yet, but I believe we have to start somewhere to get where I hope we’re going, and someone has to take the risks to hopefully shift the balance.

I hope that the more of us do this, and talk about it, that this will help other patients and individuals think through why they would or would not want to learn this. Also, while I am enormously impressed with the WeConsent.Us website for its information about the risks and benefits of personal genomics and sharing personal data, there is something about telling a story from a real person in their own words that has more impact. Hopefully my own thoughts and story will enrich what WeConsent.Us is doing.

3.  You recently received your genetic results.  What’s that been like?

Frankly, the results so far have been pretty disappointing. There are two branches of the study, one using the testing service Pathway Genomics, and the other using the testing service 23andMe. Each of the two companies runs saliva scans for different conditions, as well as other information. The primary conditions of interest for me were not included in the scan by Pathway Genomics. The results were interesting, but not very relevant. What was most interesting is that, according to the results, for the flock of conditions that run in my family, I am not at risk for ANY of them, including some I am already diagnosed as having. That seems rather surprising, so I am puzzling this over. I suspect that these are actually related to the core condition [celiac disease] that the scan didn’t include.

A little spit is all it takes.  Pictured here is the sample tube that PGen study participants fill with saliva and send in for testing.

I am also a little worried that if I share my test results with my doctors, and the results show that I “don’t have” or am not at risk for these various conditions that run in my family, that the healthcare team might be less vigilant in monitoring these. Because of worrying about the risks of my healthcare team misunderstanding the results and needing the celiac test, I decided to actually spend my own money on getting the other [23andMe] scan. I’m nervous about the money, but I really feel that the information from the one test is incomplete without the other, and the risks of the incomplete information undermine the value of the original test.

4.  At PatientsLikeMe, you’ve been able to chat with other PGen study participants in the forum.  What have you gained from that?

The forum conversations have been fascinating! It is really interesting seeing what sort of questions other people have, their reasons, their assumptions, the information that they bring to the table. Many of the conversations there have triggered new questions for me, and opportunities to learn more.

5.  If you had to pick one key takeaway from participating, what would it be?

We aren’t “there” yet, but if we ever want to get “there,” we need to start somewhere, and that’s here and now.


A Year in Review: PatientsLikeMe in 2009

Posted December 31st, 2009 by

As 2009 comes to an end, we want to take this opportunity to thank all of our members, partners and general fans for another great year.   Here’s a recap of some of the exciting happenings at PatientsLikeMe these past 12 months.  Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Community Milestones
This year, the 15+ disease communities at PatientsLikeMe became an online home to more than 50,000 members.   The fibromyalgia community was expanded this past fall to include patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, and we announced a new community scheduled to launch early next year for people with epilepsy.  In addition to celebrating our communities’ awareness days and months within the site and right here on the blog (including Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, MS and PD Awareness Months, National HIV Testing Day and World AIDS Day), many of img_8741-300x225our members also participated on PatientsLikeMe teams in walk/run efforts to raise awareness and money in the name of their disease.  Congrats to the 40+ teams walking at events to support non-profit organizations like ALS Association, National MS Society, NAMI, Parkinson’s Alliance, APDA, and the MS Society of Canada. The real-time sharing and learning happening on PatientsLikeMe was also highlighted in the report series called The Patient Voice (starting with inpatient therapy for people with Mood conditions).  Check out highlights from all these programs on these videos from the Fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis and Mood communities.

Many of our members have also become fans of PatientsLikeMe on Facebook.  Here are a few quotes posted to our Facebook page in ’09:

I find this site so beneficial in looking for the tools to cope with the disease. People post research and real-life patient experiences of current trials and treatments. Hope is a major focus of PLM and I encourage others to join. We are strong in numbers and we have a voice.”

“PLM is a wonderful way to express what and how to live with this disease. It has changed my life for the better, have met wonderful individuals and we have shared, cried and grown by reaching out and expressing from our hearts, have made wonderful friends and have learned so much.”

Research Updates
If you haven’t checked out our research page or subscribed to Google Scholar alerts (92 articles referred to us in 2009!), here’s what you’ve been missing…

This year our ever-growing research team continued their analysis of the real-world data being shared by patients like you.  Awarded the inaugural JMIR award at Medicine 2.0, the PatientsLikeMe research team published pieces on compulsive gambling in patients with Parkinson’s disease in Movement Disorders, expanding the gold standard rating scale in advanced ALS in European Journal of Neurology, and “The power of social networking in medicine” in the highly respected journal Nature Biotechnology.

Throughout the year, the team has also shared insights via videos (like this series on the history of ALS or a recap of a study on the antidepressant Amitriptyline) and various presentations (such as an overview of our work at the at Eurordis berlin-lithium-poster-207x3001AGM in Athens and updates on our lithium study at the International ALS/MND Symposium).  In addition to working on the development of our new communities, the team took additional steps to incorporate genetics into the PatientsLikeMe platform.  By participating in new partner studies (such as 23andMe and NEALS) and utilizing new product upgrades, including the launch of the Genetic Search Engine, patients are learning more about their condition and coming closer to answering the question:  “Given my status, what is the best outcome I can expect to achieve, and how do I get there?”

Keep your eyes out for more to come in 2010 as our R&D team rolls out more insights and outcomes measurements (like the Quality of Life scale in HIV), more improvements to the PatientsLikeMe platform, and cutting edge research in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

The Business Side
As Ben said in a recent blog post, “we can’t have a business without you [the patient] and our communities can’t exist to help patients without a business.”  Throughout the year, the PatientsLikeMe executive team traveled around the world to present to industry partners, researchers, healthcare professionals and government leaders about the power of real-world patient data-sharing.  Here are some highlights from ’09:

  • The National SummitInnovation: As a leader in Health 2.0, PatientsLikeMe executives are often asked to speak at various industry events.  Check out photos of Ben speaking at The National Summit and stay tuned for videos from Jamie’s presentation at TEDMED and David’s presentation at Bil:Pil.  You can also tune in to our live event tweets on the PatientsLikeMe Twitter account in 2010.
  • Media Highlights: PatientLikeMe members, data and executives were also featured in media mentions throughout 2009, including WIRED, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Fox Business Live, Newsweek, New York Times, as well as Seed magazine, Nature Biotechnology and Neurology Today.

Happy New Year!
– The PatientsLikeMe Team