Bowmanville Lab Expanding with World-Leading Genetic Testing for Rare Diseases
November 22, 2013
A quiet rural road in Bowmanville is home to world-renowned genetic testing for rare diseases, now that Gamma-Dynacare Medical Laboratories is expanding into high-complexity, disease-specific genetic testing with the addition of Impact Genetics Inc.
In October, Gamma-Dynacare announced that it had completed the acquisition of a controlling interest in Impact Genetics Inc., a Toronto-based laboratory, and would be bringing the Impact experts to its Bowmanville lab.
“It’s the only example of a non-hospital lab doing genetic tests for the province and other jurisdictions,” said Franny Jewett, CEO of Impact Genetics Inc. “It’s a really exciting place.”
Impact Genetics is recognized by oncologists and geneticists around the world as a leader in genetic testing for rare diseases. The company tests for a number of diseases, including a genetic disorder that can cause dangerous hemorrhages. Impact is also a world leader in testing for retinoblastoma— a rare, aggressive childhood eye cancer.
Some children with the genetic link are born with this type of cancer; in others, the eye cancer develops by the age of five. If a baby gets white irises in a flash photo the parents should talk with their doctor to make sure it’s not eye cancer.
If there is a family history, Impact Genetics can test a fetus in the womb for this type of cancer. If the baby has it, they are delivered early so they can be treated early and more of their sight is saved.
“Our goal as a company is to be the world leader in every test that we do,” said Ms. Jewett.
The Impact researchers are preparing to launch new tests: one for uveal melanoma, an eye cancer that develops between 40 and 70 years of age, and a leukemia test which will determine if the cancer is familial or unique to the patient.
“It’s thought that 10 percent of all cancers are genetic,” said Ms. Jewett, explaining some have a higher genetic link. “It helps knowing you’re predisposed to it and knowing the recurrence odds.”
Gamma-Dynacare does important tests to diagnose tumors and other diseases, and to examine tumors to discover which treatments will be best for a particular patient. The Bowmanville lab is in the process of growing, too, with requests to add three new tests to determine the best treatments of lung tumors, melanoma and colon cancer.
“It’s personalized medicine. We’re heading to a time when it won’t matter what you call (the cancer). It will only matter ‘What drugs do I take?’” said Ronald Stead, director of molecular and cellular pathology at Gamma-Dynacare. “It won’t matter how it looks. It will only matter how it acts.”
The labs can create detailed digital images of the tumor samples on slides to collaborate with experts around the world to look for markers to determine which type of treatment the cancer will respond to.
“It’s a very high level of control we have to have here. When we say a patient has HER2 (a fast-growing) breast cancer, we have to be right,” said Mr. Stead.
To add Impact Genetics researchers, Gamma-Dynacare is moving all of its offices upstairs and renovating the main-level lab to create a separate space for Impact Genetics. The renovations are expected to be complete by the end of 2013.
“It’s a complete rebuild,” said Mr. Stead.
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