VA Employs Next-Generation Sequencing for Clinical Testing of Solid Tumors - VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
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VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System

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VA Employs Next-Generation Sequencing for Clinical Testing of Solid Tumors

August 27, 2020


VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System Press Release header. Office of Public Affairs Media Relations (310) 268-3340

VA Employs Next-Generation Sequencing for Clinical Testing of Solid Tumors

LOS ANGELES – In February of 2019, VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS) became the first healthcare system in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to use Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) for clinical testing on patient samples for blood disorders and acute leukemia. VAGLAHS recently completed the second phase of NGS by becoming the first healthcare system in the VA to offer NGS clinical testing for solid tumors.

“NGS data is used by oncologists to confirm diagnoses, select optimal treatment therapy, enroll patients in clinical trials and obtain prognostic information that may guide treatment and management decisions,” said Carmen Kletecka, M.D., Medical Director for Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 22 Molecular Diagnostics Laboratory, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine Service, VAGLAHS.

Greater Los Angeles’ NGS testing is performed using the Oncomine Focus Assay on the Ion Torrent™ Ion Gene Studio S5 Prime System. NGS is a powerful DNA sequencing platform that has revolutionized genomic research; an entire human genome can be processed and decoded within a single day. In contrast, the previous sequencing technology used to decipher the human genome required more than a decade to deliver similar results. NGS is being used to analyze samples from patients with a variety of solid tumors including lung cancer, colon cancer, and hematologic disorders including acute leukemia, myeloproliferative neoplasms and myelodysplastic syndromes. 

“NGS results allow us to obtain vital information about the unique genetic characteristics of any given patient’s cancer, which in turn enhances our ability to apply ‘precision oncology,’” said Matthew Rettig, M.D., Chief, Division of Hematology-Oncology, VAGLAHS. “With precision oncology, we can match the unique genetic characteristics of a patient’s tumor with a specific targeted treatment that is known to be particularly effective for tumors that harbor the genetic mutation. Thus, NGS brings to fruition the idea of using ‘the right drug for the right patient’, rather than taking a one size fits all approach.” 

VAGLAHS has the largest VA molecular lab in the country providing molecular oncology testing for the VISN 22 Network including Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. In addition, VAGLAHS has the experienced staff with the expertise required to perform this highly complex test for patient care. 

NGS tests can identify specific, clinically significant and actionable genomic alterations that provide insight about a patient’s neoplastic disorder so that treatment can be tailored specifically for that patient. According to Dr. Kletecka, depending on which genomic alterations are present, a patient can be a candidate for targeted therapy or a clinical trial. 

“No two patients will have the exact same disease entity and the NGS testing will help us see how they are different at a genomic level. That information is used to provide better, more effective, personalized care,” said Dr. Kletecka. 

The 52-gene Oncomine Focus Assay used by VAGLAHS, is a comprehensive, targeted NGS test designed for the simultaneous analysis of DNA mutations, RNA fusion transcripts and gene expression levels associated with solid tumors in a single run and produce results in as little as 2-3 days. 

“Results from NGS testing are a powerful tool that oncologists can use to guide clinical care and patient management for improved outcomes,” Dr. Kletecka said. “The VA is working hard to ensure that our Veteran patients are receiving the best modern medicine has to offer.” 


ABOUT VAGLAHS: VAGLAHS is one component of the VA Desert Pacific Healthcare Network (VISN22) offering services to Veterans residing in Southern California. VAGLAHS consists of two ambulatory care centers, a tertiary care facility and 9 community-based outpatient clinics. VAGLAHS serves Veterans residing throughout five counties: Kern, Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. There are approximately 1.4 million Veterans in the VAGLAHS service area. For more information, call (310) 268-3340 or visit us at Veterans in need can call the VA hotline toll-free at 877-4-AID-VET.