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Department of Translational and Applied Genomics (TAG)

The Department of Translational and Applied Genomics (TAG) is committed to advancing knowledge of genomics and applying what we learn to improve the health care people receive. Advances in genomics bring us closer to health care tailored to our genes. However, we also face important questions about how to translate these technologies into real-life health care. Our team of researchers, research associates, certified genetic counselors, project managers, and research assistants are conducting studies on how to implement new discoveries in genomic research into the health care we receive in the real world.

We conduct many studies with patients and providers in our own health care system, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, serving Oregon and southwest Washington. For larger studies, we may partner with other health systems, which allows us to study a larger and more diverse group of patients with and without health insurance.

History

The TAG department builds on a great legacy of genomic research at the Center for Health Research (CHR). Beginning in the 1970s, Andy Glass (1939-2017), MD, a Kaiser Permanente Northwest (KPNW) physician and CHR Investigator, helped establish the KPNW Tumor Registry and encouraged the health care system to preserve all surgical cancer specimens for research. Dr. Glass was also a pioneer in breast and cervical cancer research. One of Dr. Glass’s studies collected biospecimens from over 20,000 women and directly contributed to the development of the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer.

The TAG department also builds on the work of Dr. Emily Harris, who led one of CHR’s first genetic studies, the Hemochromatosis and Iron Overload Screening (HEIRS) study. The HEIRS study assessed the prevalence of the C282Y/C282Y genotype, the cause of most cases of hemochromatosis in White individuals. The study found that this genotype did not explain the high blood iron levels in many Asian and Pacific Islander participants. Dr. Harris’ study highlights the importance of genetic research in diverse populations and the need to tailor genetic tests and treatments to groups and individuals.  

Current TAG investigators also contributed to the strength of genomic research at CHR through implementation research, biobanking, and national guideline development. Past implementation research includes Dr. Goddard’s NextGen study, which evaluated how to return carrier genomic test results to patients who were planning a pregnancy, Dr. Goddard’s study that evaluated a universal tumor screening program for Lynch syndrome, and Dr. Jessica Hunter’s study that assessed whether the CYP2C19 gene impacted the relationship between proton pump inhibitor use and risk of hip fractures.

Further implementation research in genomics was conducted by Dr. Sheila Weinmann, in her 2011 study to determine if alterations in the CYP2D6 gene affect breast cancer treatment effectiveness, and her 2015 collaboration with PreludeDx to evaluate a molecular test to improve treatment for patients with ductal carcinoma in situ (a noninvasive breast cancer). These studies addressed important research questions to inform the medical community on how to improve patient care using genomic medicine.

Notable biobanking projects include the NW Biobank, which was established in 2009 under Dr. Goddard’s leadership. Dr. Weinmann helps lead the national Kaiser Permanente Research Bank (KPRB), a biobank created in 2014 in collaboration with other KP regions. Both biobanks collect biospecimens from participants and link that information to electronic medical records. Data collected in these biobanks are available for research use.

Lastly, CHR has a long history of helping develop national guidelines. Since 2013, Dr. Goddard has managed the Actionability Working Group in the ClinGen consortium, which synthesizes national guidelines regarding the clinical actionability of genetic mutations. The group helps to guide decisions about which genomic test results are medically actionable, delivering information that helps guide patient care. The predecessor to ClinGen was the 2010 CDC-funded Knowledge Synthesis Center (KSC) in Genomics. The KSC developed a standardized approach for identifying clinically actionable incidental findings and published systematic evidence reviews on genomic conditions.

Today, the TAG Department is conducting studies that are shaping the future of health care and exploring all of the promise genomic medicine has to offer. See our research page for more information about current research projects.

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