AMP 2012 Annual Meeting on Genomic Medicine

The Association for Molecular Pathology met in Long Beach

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The Association for Molecular Pathology held its 2012 Annual Meeting on Genomic Medicine October 25-27 at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center in Long Beach, Calif. ADVANCE was there chatting with attendees, checking out new technologies on the exhibit hall floor and taking in the educational sessions covering relevant topics for molecular pathology "newbies" and thought-leading industry veterans alike.

There was a clear shift in focus at this year's conference. As AMP executive director Mary Steele Williams pointed out, many sessions last year explained what next-generation sequencing is. This year, more people are talking about results in utilizing next-gen sequencing for patient management. This was seen in such sessions as "Interpretation of DNA Sequence Data" (Elaine Lyon, PhD, Mike Friez, PhD, and Robert Green, MD, MPH), "Impact of NGS on Molecular Hematopathology" (Christian Steidl, MD, and Roberto Chiarle, MD), "Utility of NGS from a Clinical and Laboratory Perspective" (David Bick, MD, and Michael Snyder, PhD), and other sessions, poster presentations and vendor-sponsored workshops.

This year's conference had record-breaking attendance as the Association's reach continues to expand. The addition of "Genomic Medicine" to the program title was a nod to the growth experienced in personalized medicine, companion diagnostics, genomics, next-gen sequencing and gene expression profiling -- growth that is a result of the human and financial resource investments in molecular pathology, said Dan Farkas, PhD, HCLD, program committee chairman.

"AMP's target education audience is basically the planet," Williams said. Think of the Association's potential reach and influence as a series of concentric circles, with members and those intimately familiar with molecular pathology at the core, followed by a circle of non-molecular laboratory professionals, then healthcare professionals outside the lab, followed by payers and investors. Finally, the largest circle is patients -- and while we're still a long way off from making molecular pathology a concept familiar to laypersons, the influence is expanding.

Session Highlights
While there was a noted focus on next-gen sequencing, there were, of course, other valuable workshops and plenary sessions throughout the conference, as well. In "Surveillance for the Molecular Laboratory," Barry Kreiswirth, PhD, and Ari Robicsek, MD, discussed ways that molecular pathology tools can be utilized to identify outbreaks, monitor strains and resistance, and ultimately, catch outbreaks early to prevent further spread.

"We're good at analyzing genomes to assess outbreaks after the fact," Kreiswirth noted. "The challenge is how to use genomics and other molecular approaches to improve infection control and prevent transmission or incorrect treatment. That's the challenge for the next 10 years going forward."

New this year were the "101" sessions for attendees still new to molecular pathology. These morning sessions -- Molecular Genetics & Infectious Diseases 101; Molecular Hematopathology 101; Molecular Solid Tumors 101; and Economics 101 -- were designed to present easy-to-digest information to serve as a foundation for the more detailed information found in other sessions. That these 7:00 a.m. events were often standing-room only speaks to their value -- and the hunger for information many AMP attendees have.

In his talk, "Whole Genome and Whole Exome Sequencing in the Clinic," part of the "Utility of NGS from a Clinical and Laboratory Perspective" symposia, Bick shared the lessons learned by the Whole Genome Sequencing program at his facility at the Medical College of Wisconsin. The program, which includes a review committee consisting of physicians, ethicists and scientists to ensure that all reasonable testing has already been completed and whole genome sequencing is likely to advance clinical care, stresses the importance of genetics counseling for patients -- or their parents, in the case of sequencing a child's genome. There are still logistical and ethical considerations to be sorted through. For example, Bick said, there may be secondary or incidental findings that could indicate increased risk for an adult-onset disease, for which treatment may or may not be available. Should parents be told this information about their young child's genome, or should it be left to the child to decide whether they want that information when they are older?

Not all sessions were technical or clinical. An early bird session reviewed and updated the Mayo vs. Prometheus and ACLU vs. Myriad court cases -- stay tuned for an upcoming article on this topic. There were also sessions on the economics of performing tests in-house versus sending them to a reference lab, molecular pathology CPT coding in 2013, and a valuable workshop offering tips for starting a molecular lab.

The information gathered by ADVANCE at the annual meeting, as usual, is vast. You'll see a number of articles in the coming months inspired by sessions as well as meetings with cutting-edge technology vendors, and we'll have more conference coverage in the coming days, including a photo slideshow and a rundown of the latest and greatest for the exhibit hall floor.

Kelly Graham Bocich is on staff at ADVANCE. Contact: kbocich@advanceweb.com

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