2022 Impact Report

Looking forward:
Genomics

Stopping disease before it even starts

What if we could identify a predisposition to a disease and begin treatment before the patient saw symptoms?

How many lives would be changed by never receiving a diagnosis of cancer, heart disease or many other diseases? The future of health care is already taking shape in Calgary within the field of genomics where a team of researchers, scientists, health economists and doctors are working building the technology to identify genetic disease before it even exists.

It’s smart health economics

Hospital care is expensive and it currently demands constant increases in investment to meet the demands of caring for complex disease. While health emergencies will always exist – some may not have to. By identifying genetic illnesses early – sometimes even just the predispositions – we can transform our health care system. Instead of depending on hospital infrastructure to meet the growing rate of disease, we have the opportunity to view hospital care as a last resort, releasing pressure off the system and better funding all areas of health care.

This approach is known as Prevention Genomics Medicine and is designed to create breakthroughs in care for the individual patient and the entire system.

The power of genetic screening

Many diseases and illnesses like cancer, heart disease, some mental health conditions and more are associated with certain genes that are inherited at birth. By identifying them early, we can monitor, treat and avoid acute care and severe illness in all new ways.

Image: Dr. Francois Bernier is changing how we detect the markers of critical diseases that can change the trajectory of an individual’s life.

Inherited cancer genes

10-15%

50%+

Screening saves lives

Access to genetic screening saves lives but is often hard to access and accessed too late.

Our pilot program in Calgary, which will be located at Richmond Road Diagnostic Treatment Centre, aims to fundamentally change that and extend screening to as many people as possible. With an initial focus on women’s cancer, the program has the potential to change the lives of hundreds of families.

Based on a population testing approach, screening could potentially prevent an additional 2,319 to 2,666 breast cancer and 327 to 449 ovarian cancer cases per million women. For women in Alberta making up approximately 1 million people, this means potentially over 3,000 fewer cases of cancer.

For women in Alberta making up approximately one million people, this means potentially over 3,000 fewer cases of cancer.

More than cancer

While cancer is a major priority, the project is also applying its focus to cardiovascular disease, mental health and a handful of other diseases that can be identified through genomic testing.

With the right combination of funding, determination and executional breakthroughs, Prevention Genomics Health has the potential to fundamentally change the way we live with, identify, and treat illnesses.

If we can identify why someone is more predisposed to diseases and what makes them more at risk than someone else, than we can start to prevent illness.

Dr. Francois Bernier