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A genetic basis is found in ∼70% of familial and ∼15% of sporadic ALS, in research cohorts. Clinical trials of gene-targeted therapies are underway, heralding a new era of personalized medicine in ALS treatment. However, ALS management guidelines do not include recommendations for the offer of genetic testing. Many persons with ALS who desire genetic testing are not currently offered it, and the yield of genetic testing in clinic-based ALS populations is unknown. The ALS GAP program, sponsored by the Northeast ALS (NEALS) Consortium, provides free genetic testing for patients with ALS who have a family history of ALS or dementia. We report genetic testing outcomes in the first 142 patients tested in the program. 1) To create a pilot ALS genetic testing program for NEALS clinics, 2) To study the rate of ALS gene identification in a US clinic-based population Persons with ALS and a family history of ALS (fALS) or dementia (dALS) who receive care at a US NEALS clinic are eligible for testing. Patients classified as fALS (having a positive family history of ALS in a 1, 2, or 3 degree relative) are eligible for C9orf72 testing, with the option to reflex to a 5 gene (SOD1, FUS, TARDBP, TBK1, VCP) panel. Patients classified as dALS (having a positive family history of dementia of any type in a 1 or 2 degree relative) are eligible for C9orf72 testing only. Currently, 29.5% (34/115) of US NEALS clinics have participated in the program. Of 142 patients who have completed testing to date, 78 (54.9%) were classified as fALS and 64 (45.1%) as dALS. Among fALS cases, 42/78 (53.9%) tested positive, including 32/78 (41%) with a C9orf72 repeat expansion, and 10/78 (12.8%) with other pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants in SOD, FUS, TARDP or VCP. Variants of uncertain significance (VUS) in FUS were identified in 2/78 (2.6%). Among dALS cases, 12/60 (20%) tested positive for C9orf72. Participation in ALS-GAP indicates significant clinician and patient interest in ALS genetic testing. This program addresses several current barriers to testing access, including cost, identifying appropriate candidates for testing, and appropriate test selection. Although 38% of patients who participated in the program have thus far received a genetic diagnosis, our testing outcome data suggests that the gene identification rate in fALS cases may be lower in clinic-based patients than in research cohorts, particularly for genes other than C9orf72. This program may serve as a model for the practice of ALS genetic testing in the clinic setting. Consistent, equitable testing policies, as well as an accurate understanding of the genetic profile of clinic-based ALS populations, are needed as gene-targeted therapies reach patient care.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis & frontotemporal degeneration
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