Patients at El Camino Hospital will have access to a powerful new medical tool this week after the hospital becomes the first in the nation to open its own genomic center.
Although other medical facilities conduct genomic research, El Camino will be the first to provide genetic testing after its Genomic Medicine Institute opens its doors on Thursday, said hospital vice president Jon Friedenberg.
Friedenberg, who is overseeing the institute, wants to bring these tests to doctors and patients to provide "personalized medicine" at El Camino's Mountain View facility.
"What is unique about us is we are bringing this technology to patients today, as opposed to working on research to deliver five or 10 years down the road," Friedenberg said. "Patients can benefit now rather than wait."
There are currently 2,000 genetic tests available to patients for screening and prevention, he said, and scientists expect this number to double in the next 18 months. Friedenberg said El Camino will start small, offering 10 genetic tests, and will build an "infrastructure." As time goes by, new tests will be added to the center's repertoire.
The tests can help patients detect the previously undetectable: the possibility of inheriting certain diseases, or whether they will benefit from certain drugs or treatments.
For example, Friedenberg said, only 80 percent of breast cancer patients receive relief from chemotherapy, and the new institute will allow doctors to test the benefit of the chemo drug for each patient.
"Let's look at the individual genes," he said. "This takes it to a whole new level."
Friedenberg came up with the idea for the center several years ago, when he was at a conference and heard physicians discuss the future impact of genomics. He decided that El Camino should be an "early adopter" and offer patients this genetic approach as tests become available.
He received the backing of the community and the hospital, which spent $350,000 to launch the center. It will keep a small office at the hospital, and work with DNA Direct, an organization providing genetic consulting, therapy and testing.
The hospital intends to spend about half a million dollars each year on the Genomic Medicine Institute, and provide around a dozen new tests every several months, bringing the number to 50 "by the end of the calendar year," Friedenberg said.