Clinical Trial

A Small Cancer Trial Resulted In Remission For Every Patient Involved 

In a new research trial of 18 rectal cancer patients, every individual involved who took the same drug found themselves in remission for their illness. The cancer vanished in every single patient, meaning the cancer was undetectable by physical exam, endoscopy, MRI scans, and PET scans. 

The research from the trial was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine from lead author Dr. Luiz A. Diaz Jr. of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The trial was sponsored by drug company GlaxoSmithKline, and Dr. Diaz stated that he knew of no other study where a treatment completely obliterated a cancer in every patient involved. 

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“I believe this is the first time this has happened in the history of cancer.”

Dr. Alan P. Venook, a colorectal cancer specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved with the study, said he also thought “this was a first. A complete remission in every single patient is unheard-of,” he said.

The rectal cancer patients involved in the study have all previously experienced invasive and intense treatments for their conditions including chemotherapy, radiation, and life-altering surgery that could result in bowel, urinary, and sexual dysfunction. 

When the patients received the news that they would no longer need treatment for their cancer, as it was no longer existent, Dr. Andrea Cercek, a co-author of the paper, said “there was a lot of happy tears from everyone.”

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Venook added that another major surprise was that none of the patients had any clinically significant complications from the trial drug. On average 20% of patients who take a drug similar to the one used in the trial, dostarlimab, have some sort of adverse reaction. 

In the trial the medication was given every three weeks for six months, each dose cost around $11,000. The drug itself is meant to “unmask” cancer cells, allowing the body’s immune system to easily identify and destroy them. 

“While most adverse reactions are easily managed, as many as 3% to 5% of patients who take checkpoint inhibitors have more severe complications that, in some cases, result in muscle weakness and difficulty swallowing and chewing. The absence of significant side effects, means that either they did not treat enough patients or, somehow, these cancers are just plain different,” Venook said.

Dr. Hanna K. Sanoff of the University of North Carolina’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was not involved in the study, called it “small but compelling, though, that it is not clear if the patients are cured. Very little is known about the duration of time needed to find out whether a clinical complete response to dostarlimab equates to cure.”


Study Reveals Whole-Genome Sequencing Can Improve Childhood Cancer Outcomes 

According to a pilot study performed by doctors in Cambridge, reading the full genetic code of childhood cancers can help doctors improve an overall diagnosis. The code can also help doctors learn about how tumors grow and how to find the most effective treatment therapies for specific tumors. 

In the study the doctors used whole-genome sequencing on 36 children with cancer. They found that the extra information they were provided changed four of the patients’ diagnoses and revealed new treatment options in seven cases. 

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Seeing the whole-genome sequence of the cancer’s DNA allows doctors to learn even more about the specific cancers that their patients are dealing with. Clinicians in the study were able to refine two of their previous diagnoses, learn more about the course of the disease in eight of the children, and found potential hereditary reasons for tumors in two of the subjects. 

“Our aim was to illustrate what can be achieved with whole-genome sequencing and to try and advertise its utility. Locally in Cambridge it was never really in question that this would add value,” said Dr Patrick Tarpey, lead scientist for solid cancer in the East Genomic Laboratory Hub based at Cambridge University hospitals NHS foundation trust.

The results are projected to be shared at the National Cancer Research Institute festival. NHS England has already discussed their plans of rolling out whole-genome sequencing for childhood cancers with the goal of making sequencing a normal part of treatment. This will allow doctors to continuously track specific aspects of their patients’ cancer to make adjustments in treatment for the best possible outcome. 

The 36 children involved in the study had 23 different tumor types. All participants endured a standard test to identify their cancer, and test their genome sequencing to see whether or not their current treatment was actually improving the condition or not. 

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According to the study, comparing the genetic makeup of a tumor versus healthy tissue within the same individual can help doctors identify the specific mutations that are driving the cancer, and potentially can reveal the tumor’s weakness. The work itself is no easy task, however, as it can take anywhere from two to three months to successfully and accurately interpret the genome sequence. 

Tarpey said “about three-quarters of the gene variants flagged up in the study came from whole-genome analysis rather than the standard cancer tests the children had. There are cases where the diagnosis was completely uncertain and we’ve been able to confirm it, and in doing so identify the mechanisms that impaired the genes.”

Sheona Scales is a pediatric leader at Cancer Research UK, who said that children with cancer often undergo grueling treatments, and even when they’re over the side-effects can last a lifetime, which is why studies like this are so important. 

“It is vital that we find ways to tailor treatments towards the individual and for this, whole-genome sequencing is a game-changer.” 

“Understanding more about the makeup of a child’s cancer can help doctors make the most informed treatment choices for their patients. The hope is that this will lead to better outcomes for children with cancer, not just in terms of survival, but also in the quality of the rest of their lives,” she explained.

Woman Enjoying the Day

U.S. Life Expectancy Increases For The First Time In Years

The life expectancy of the average U.S. citizen has gone up for the first time since 2014. A major contributing factor to this is likely the fact that cancer death rates have declined the most they have in U.S. history within the past year. Additionally, drug overdose deaths, whether intentional or unintentional, have also seen a major decrease since 2018, some good news for a country that’s typically always devastated by physical and mental health statistics. 

The reports come from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and went on to emphasize how drug overdose deaths have decreased by 4% nationwide since 2018, a shocking statistic considering the increasing threat of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s caused countless accidental overdoses; including that of famous rapper Mac Miller who passed away in September 2018. 

However, the CDC credits the overall increase in life expectancy to the decrease in deaths caused by cancer or heart disease; the two leading causes of death in the world. The average American now has a life expectancy of 78.7 years, which is one tenth of a year more than what the CDC said in 2017. While one tenth of a year may not seem like that big of a deal, in terms of preventable and unpreventable causes of death it says a lot, especially to the professionals who are working with those who are sick with these diseases; it indicates to them that what they’re doing is working, even if it’s just a little.  

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“While modest, it’s really great news that the data shows progress. We have to be a little bit optimistic that some of our approaches to the problems worked, but let’s strike while the iron’s hot. I credit [the decline in overdose rates to] the overdose antidote, naloxone, which states and cities have made available so emergency workers and others can save the lives of people overdosing on opiods. But naloxone is a last resort that doesn’t get at the root causes of why people turn to drugs or suicide,” said psychologist Benjamin Miller, chief strategy officer at the non profit Well Being Trust.

Miller is referring to the stigma surrounding mental health and its relation to addiction. The fact is, substance abuse and addiction isn’t seen by general society as a real illness because it has to do with will-power and your brain, not multiplying cancer cells that you have no control over in your organs. However, mental illness is just as severe as physical illness, and the statistics can back up that both are just as uncontrollable and deadly. 

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Destigmatizing addiction and expanding accessible mental health resources won’t fix everything, but it’s definitely a start, and the new data from the CDC proves that it works too. Miller emphasized this point as well, stating that within the past few years medication-assisted treatment for those addicted to opioids has become more accessible. This is extremely important as addiction to opioids specifically has become one of the biggest health epidemics the U.S. has ever endured. 

Before this new data, for the past three years the U.S. has seen a relatively steady decline in life expectancy due to disease and accidental death rates. Drug overdoses are looped into this conversation because they account for over a third of all accidental deaths in the U.S.. Accidental deaths are within the top 10 leading causes of death as well, and that top 10 has remained stagnant as well for the past few years. 

Other top leading causes of death in the U.S. include pneumonia when coupled with the flu, heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries that lead to unexpected complications, lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and suicide. By further opening up these conversations regarding mental health and addiction, we can at least work on preventing some of those top 10 causes from increasing while we let medical and mental health professionals work on the rest.

Healthy Lifestyle

Study Finds That a Healthy Lifestyle can Add a Decade of Life Free From Disease

Everyone knows that practicing healthy habits, such as dieting, exercising, and avoiding cigarettes, can extend one’s life span and improve one’s quality of life. However, it can be difficult to conceptualize exactly how much of a benefit these habits offer in one’s life, as it’s easy for these metrics to become somewhat abstract. As such, a study published in the British Medical Journal sought to quantify exactly how much a healthy lifestyle benefits one’s life, and found that practicing a healthy lifestyle can expand one’s disease-free lifespan by an average of ten years.

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The study looked at five factors associated with a healthy lifestyle, which included drinking alcohol in moderation, not smoking, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating well. The study, which looked at more than 100,000 people, found that people who practiced four of these five traits lived as much as ten years longer without diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, than people who practiced none of these habits. Not only does a healthy lifestyle allow people to live longer lives, but the quality of life increases when people practice healthy lifestyle habits, as the risk of developing diseases decreases dramatically.

Specifically, the study found that women who practiced any four of the five traits in question lived an average of 84 years without disease, whereas women who practiced none of the five habits only lived an average of 74 years without disease. Likewise, men with four out of the five healthy habits lived to 81 years old without disease, whereas men who practiced none of the healthy habits lived to 73 years old without disease. The most unhealthy characteristics a person can have, the study found, were smoking more than 15 cigarettes a day or having a BMI greater than 30, which is defined as obesity.

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While the study shows that moderate drinking is far healthier than heavy drinking, it’s important to note that other studies have shown that no amount of alcohol is good for you, despite persistent rumors that suggest that having a glass of wine with dinner can improve one’s health. In fact, using recreational drugs at all is widely considered to have either a neutral or a negative impact on one’s health, and definitely not a positive one. Instead of relying on drugs as a method of reducing stress, doctors recommend other methods that help to both relieve stress and improve health. Regular exercise, for instance, has been shown to improve one’s overall mood, and meditation, a practice whereby people focus on paying attention to their experiences in the present moment, can improve mental health as well. If, like most people, you’re concerned about extending the longevity and quality of your life, it’s not a bad idea to think about the various ways in which your current lifestyle habits might contribute to disease and develop strategies to improve your lifestyle habits.

Purple Ribbon

New Technology That Can Help Diagnose Pancreatic Cancer Patients Earlier

At this time of year many of us find ourselves being thankful that we have managed to navigate another year on this planet and, hopefully, came out the other side of 2019 with our homes, our family, our friends, some money and, most importantly, our health. But that is not always the case.

Cancer is a dreadful disease that affects most families. The National Cancer Institute claims an estimated 1,735,350 cases of cancer were diagnosed in the United States during 2018, with 609,640 ultimately dying from the disease. While we hear a lot about specific forms of cancer – such as breast cancer, cervical cancer and lung cancer – pancreatic cancer is actually one of the worst types of cancer to be diagnosed with.

Due to its very nature, pancreatic cancer is hard to detect thanks to it having minimal symptoms until the sufferer is in the late stages of the disease, meaning it is not often diagnosed until there is nothing left that the medical profession can do to help you.

If you are not sure what the pancreas is it is a vital organ that produces the hormone that regulates our body’s blood sugar – insulin. However the pancreas is tricky to locate as it is hidden by the liver and stomach at the back of the abdomen, which is why it can be difficult to detect early tumors when we go for our routine physical exams.

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With this knowledge it is easier to understand why 9% of pancreatic cancer patients are able to stay alive five years beyond the original diagnosis. Endocrinologist Dr Somashekar Krishna acknowledges that pancreatic cancer “doesn’t produce any symptoms early on.” However, researchers have begun to find ways that they can help those suffering with this dreadful disease.

This was the case with Patricia Beatty. When she had been struggling with a stomach virus she went to the hospital to be checked out. Once there the doctors scanned her stomach and found out she was not actually suffering from a stomach virus but in fact she had a cyst which they told her was “precancerous.”

There are two different ways that pancreatic cancer develops. Patients either have a cyst that can change and become cancerous, or they already have a cancerous tumor. The main difference between a cyst and a tumor is that while a pancreatic cyst is mainly fluid, a tumor is solid. Pancreas cysts are found quite often and, with doctors able to test the cyst fluid, thankfully most of them are benign. However it is quite difficult to determine which will stay benign and which will develop into actual cancer.

By using sonograms – or some of the other diagnostic imaging tools available – both cysts and tumors, cancerous or benign, can be detected however these procedures are very expensive and therefore are only used if and when doctors are fairly certain of the outcomes.

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Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center has been carrying out a study of a new device that could detect pancreatic cancer earlier. The diagnostic tool provides a microscopic look at the cyst wall and Krishna – who led the study – confirms the study shows a high accurate rate during the virtual biopsy, saying “we can diagnose cysts with the accuracy of 96% to 97%.”

But how does the procedure actually work? A tiny scope beams a laser light which in turn produces a cellular image not only of the cyst but more importantly, the inside of the cyst. Krishna continues “[in] looking at the image pattern which comes from the cyst wall, which comes as a direct video feed in real time, we can conclude what the diagnosis is.”

With this new technology becoming more available Krishna and his colleagues are training doctors across America how to use it in their hospitals, meaning more patients will be able to have the treatment and potentially beat pancreatic cancer thanks to their precancerous cysts being diagnosed earlier.

But while this latest technology can ultimately save lives, it is still an expensive procedure and will only be carried out if a doctor has already ordered a sonogram or an MRI is ordered – potentially for a different reason due to the symptom free nature of this disease. Therefore, unless like Patricia Beatty you are at the hospital for problems requiring further treatment, the silent killer will continue to grow in the majority of sufferers until a time when it is too late to treat them.

Obviously the easiest way to make such diagnoses’ earlier is via a blood test – as is the case for many more diseases and illnesses. However Krishna admitted that although researchers were working on producing this simple test it is as yet to be developed.

Until then, patients have to hope they have a reason to head to the hospital for tests, so they too can be like Beatty. Thanks to the procedure the doctors found her cyst before it became malignant and spread meaning she is now cancer free.


Is Vaping Safer than Smoking?

When e-cigarettes were first introduced to the American public, they were marketed in large part as a safe tobacco-cessation aid, promising to help people quit smoking by allowing them to gradually reduce their nicotine intake over time. E-cigarettes and vaping generally were also marketed as healthier alternatives to cigarettes, as e-cigarette vapor does not contain much of the same tar and other harmful chemicals as cigarette smoke. In fact, Juul, one of the world’s largest e-cigarette companies, was found to have directly marketed to high-school kids, leveraging designs and flavors meant to appeal to teens and telling them that their products were “totally safe.” E-cigarette use has exploded in popularity in particular among young people, threatening decades of work done by the government to dissuade the younger generation from using recreational drugs like nicotine.

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While e-cigarettes have long been assumed to be safe due to the lack of combustion involved, recent events have introduced doubt about the safety of these devices. A few months ago, a string of vaping-related hospitalizations, some of which led to death, renewed fears that vaping is in fact more dangerous than companies like Juul have let on. In the aftermath of these mysterious illnesses, Walmart decided to stop selling e-cigarette devices, and some states even moved to ban flavored vaping products in an effort to minimize use among children and teenagers. The federal government has contemplated banning the sale of flavored e-cigarette ingredients as well, but has not yet done so. Eventually, the CDC tied the incidences of sudden, severe lung illness to counterfeit THC cartridges that were distributed in the black market, but an overall attitude of skepticism towards vaping in general persisted. Specifically, the researchers found that the ingredient vitamin E acetate, which is used as an additive to alter the consistency of THC oil, was to blame in this particular phenomenon.

While this year’s major health scare related to vaping turned out to be limited to counterfeit products, perceptions about the dangers of vaping persist and are supported by new evidence that suggests vaping can be responsible for some long-term illnesses. Specifically, an article published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine details a large study that compared the lungs of people who used e-cigarettes with cigarette smokers and those who did not consume nicotine over three years. Unsurprisingly, the last group had the lowest risk of developing a lung illness, but while e-cigarettes were found to cause problems in their own right, they were nonetheless considered safer and healthier than smoking.

“E-cigarettes should not be recommended.”

While differing in severity, the long-term health complications associated with vaping are similar to those associated with smoking cigarettes, and include chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The most dangerous form of nicotine consumption mentioned in the study was “dual use,” which is a combination of vaping and smoking, as not only does this practice maximize the amount of nicotine one consumes but it also exposes the lungs to the most amount of smoke or vapor. Dual use is the most common pattern of use the researchers found, signalling trouble for the millions of teenagers whose nicotine addictions are fueled by multiple vectors of drug consumption. The results of the three-year study corroborated animal studies on the effects of vapor on the lungs. Worryingly, the study also found that certain harmful ingredients, like propylene glycol, diacetyl, and even metals were present at a higher concentration in e-cigarette vapor than in combusted cigarette smoke. 

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Overall, the study is extremely critical of e-cigarettes, suggesting they are only valuable in a limited number of cases, and it concludes with the line “E-cigarettes should not be recommended.” In a small number of cases, e-cigarettes can be a good option for people who are trying to quit smoking as long as they use the devices with discipline and respect. While still harmful, e-cigarette vapor is less harmful than smoke, and vaping formulas can be adjusted over time to gradually reduce their nicotine content. That being said, as a result of the high prevalence of “dual use,” using e-cigarettes while trying to quit smoking can backfire, and indeed for most people using an e-cigarette is connected with an even lower chance of successfully quitting smoking. Other tobacco cessation aids, like nicotine-infused chewing gum or skin patches, are more effective in helping people quit and pose no threat to the health and safety of the lungs.


Light Alcohol Consumption Linked with Higher Cancer Risk

It’s previously been reported that no amount of alcohol consumption is good for your health, though the negative effects of light consumption are less severe than the effects of heavy consumption. However, a new study conducted in Japan has concluded that light to moderate alcohol consumption is also linked with elevated cancer risk. The study, which was published in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, found that one’s overall risk of cancer was lowest when they did not consume any alcohol at all.

The recent student contradicts previous research on the subject, which has linked limited alcohol consumption with lower risks of some types of cancer. The new study, however, is much broader in scope than previous research that has been conducted on the topic, as it examines information from 33 Japanese general hospitals, totalling 126,464 patients, half of which belong to a control group and half of which were patients with cancer. The collected data spanned over a decade, from 2005-2016, and was controlled for sex, age, hospital admission date, and admitting hospital.

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The research is based in large part on patients’ self-reported amounts of daily alcohol consumption, using the measurement of standardized alcohol units. For example, one standardized alcohol unit is equivalent to one cup of Japanese sake, one 17-ounce bottle of beer, one 6-ounce glass of wine, or one 2-ounce cup of whiskey.

The correlation between alcohol consumption and cancer risk was almost linear, meaning that one’s risk of developing cancer increases at the same rate that one consumes alcohol. The cancer risk was lowest at no alcohol consumption, and one drink per day for ten years increased patients’ cancer risk by five percent. This finding held true regardless of a person’s sex, drinking and smoking behaviors, and social class. The most common areas in which cancer develops relating to alcohol consumption include the colorectum, stomach, breast, prostate, and esophagus.

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In Japan, as well as in many places around the world, the primary cause of death is cancer. While this study is limited to patients in Japanese hospitals, it is likely that the findings apply to other populations as well. Hopefully, this study will help to dispel ongoing myths that a small amount of alcohol consumption has a neutral or even positive effect on one’s health, as cancer is a debilitating and terrible disease. Cancer is not the only health risk associated with alcohol consumption; excessive use of alcohol has also been linked to high blood pressure, mental health issues that affect both one’s mood and cognition, and addiction. 

While binge drinking or other forms of excessive alcohol consumption pose much more substantial health risks than more responsible forms of drinking, many still believe that having a glass of wine with dinner several times a week, for instance, is good for one’s health. As the science surrounding the health effects of alcohol consumption continues to evolve, it becomes increasingly clear that this widespread belief is not based in fact.

Lung Cancer Xray

Lung Cancer Rates Are Down In The U.S. But Doctors Still Want You To Get Annual Screenings

With vaping making all health headlines within the past year, it seems as though Americans are experiencing a large lung injury epidemic. However, according to a recent study published by the American Lung Association, lung cancer rates have decreased substantially within the past decade here in the United States. 

Specifically, the rate of new lung cancer cases in the U.S, has dropped 19% within the past ten years and the five year survival rate with the disease has increased 26%! While these numbers are quite incredible, lung cancer is still the leading cause of cancer related death as well, a title it’s unfortunately almost always held. In general the American Lung Association reported that between 2012 and 2016, there was an average of 60 lung cancer cases per 100,000 people. The numbers overall varied state by state, Utah holds the lowest rate with an average of 27 people, while Kentucky holds the highest rate with 96 people per 100,000. The same goes for the percentage of survival rates in each state; the lowest being 16.8% in Alabama, and the highest being 26.4% survival in Connecticut, according to the report.

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The best chance at surviving this vicious cancer is to detect it early on, which unfortunately doesn’t happen to often. In fact, in the state by state data the highest rate of early detection for new lung cancer cases is only 28.1% in Wyoming; the lowest being 16.6% in Alaska. 

“Most cases are only caught at a very late stage. You don’t get symptoms until it’s very late and it’s very developed. If you get diagnosed at an early stage, which very few people are, the tumor’s often limited, it hasn’t spread and at that point, you’re often eligible for surgery where they can cut it out and it’s essentially curative. The difference between an early diagnosis and a late diagnosis is about a five times higher survival rate,” said Zach Jump, national director for epidemiology and statistics at the American Lung Association.

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The biggest take away the American Lung Association wants to convey to readers with their annual reports is that yearly lung cancer screening are at the minimum the best way to prevent yourself from becoming a part of any of these statistics. This is especially true for those with a higher risk for the disease, whether that means genetically, or if you’re a dedicated smoker. However, the reality is that many individuals don’t ever get screened because of the assumption that they’re completely healthy. This is especially true for those at the highest of risks. The ALA’s report states that the screening rates for adults considered to be “high risk” is only 4.2% nationally!

The ALA wants Americans to know that there really is no harm in just getting screened. You don’t want to become just a number on an annual report, you want to be an actual human being who lives out the rest of their lives happy and healthy, so don’t be afraid to go get screened. 

“The report found that lung cancer rates for every measure vary significantly by state, and that every state can do more to defeat lung cancer, such as increasing the rate of screening among those at high risk, addressing disparities in receipt of treatment, decreasing exposure to radon and secondhand smoke and eliminating tobacco use. This report provides unique information for state officials, policymakers, researchers and those affected by lung cancer and emphasizes the need for resources and action to decrease the toll of lung cancer across the country,”  researchers wrote in the report.

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Could Genetic Testing Services Inform Your Lifestyle?

Services that promise to analyze consumers’ DNA in order to give them information about their genetics have been around for years. The most notable of these services are ones that provide information about a person’s ancestry, breaking down a person’s genetic information by geographical region and even connecting relatives who may not have known that they are related with one another. One of the most popular genetic testing services, 23andMe, even promises to inform consumers of their genetic predispositions for certain illnesses and traits, as well as carrier traits which do not manifest in the individual being tested but could affect the person’s family. A new service, Gini, aims to take the field of personal genomics a step further by not only identifying a wide range of health characteristics obtained from a person’s DNA, but by synthesizing this information into an extremely personalized lifestyle plan, which includes nutritional advice about what type of food is best for your unique genetic composition and exercise programs tailored to your genes.

What differentiates Gini from similar services is the functionality added by the company’s app, which requires a monthly subscription of $9.99 to operate. The app, which is available for both Android and iOS devices, is the primary method of interacting with the results of your genetic test, as it displays lists of foods which the company claims are good for you and list of foods that aren’t, and a behavioral coaching feature, which leverages principles of psychology to help you develop healthier habits and reduce risks of developing illnesses, particularly ones that the company identifies you having a genetic predisposition towards. You can buy a genetic testing kit from the company for $25 with the purchase of a subscription, or you can import your genetic information from a previous test conducted by 23andMe, or myheritage. One disadvantage of Gini’s service is that the information provided by the company is limited to health advice, as Gini does not inform users about their geneology in any way.

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Gini is not the only genetic testing service promising to improve their consumers’ health through genetic testing. Another service, Habit combines DNA testing with blood test results to provide a more detailed and ostensible accurate portrait of an individual’s dietary needs. With the slogan “Your body knows what it needs. Now you can too,” Habit advertises itself as allowing for a more holistic approach to personalized health recommendations, and their app even synchronizes with the Fitbit activity tracker for even more data to work with. Habit works by selecting one of seven categories, which include “Protein Seeker” and “Fat Seeker,” that best summarizes a person’s diet needs, and encourages users to stick to a particular diet through an app. Habit offers similar features as Gini, but is cheaper overall, as a one-year subscription costs $49. However, Habit does not offer information about genetic diseases and traits or ancestry.

While acknowledging that genetic composition plays a role in how an individual processes food, doctors and researchers stress that the genetic component only accounts for a small percentage of illnesses like diabetes and obesity that are related to nutritional habits, and as such, relying on genetic testing for personalized diet and exercise information is generally unnecessary. Other factors that influence a person’s health include their age, weight, how they react to sugar and starch, and even their gut microbiomes, none of which are accounted for in DNA tests. Instead, medical professionals point to a person’s behavior as a better predictor of overall health and well-being, and urge patients to focus instead on how to change their habits to improve their overall health over time. However, the general opinion among medical professionals is that if they motivate people to take a more proactive approach in maintaining their health and well-being, genetic tests are not harmful and have the potential to be a useful tool to encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

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Health advocates and medical professionals caution, however, that results of consumer-grade genetic tests should be taken with a grain of salt. Not every service is held to the same standard of accuracy, and it is possible for DNA samples to be contaminated, either while they are being collected by the consumer or by laboratory technicians mishandling samples. Additionally, while some tests offer information about a person’s predisposition to cancers and other illnesses, this information is incomplete, as only a limited number of diseases can be screened for, which can give people whose test results come back negative for genetic diseases a false understanding of their risks. And deficiencies in the testing procedures can lead to false positives. Because of these concerns, as well as the high likelihood of consumers misinterpreting their test results, consumer level genetic testing services are no replacement for a genetic counselor, who utilize more thorough and specialized testing procedures and are specially trained to conduct and interpret test results.