In study, gene test shows promise for detecting heart disease

By Marilynn Marchione
Associated Press / October 5, 2010

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NEW YORK — It’s not a perfect test. Yet researchers report a key step for the first gene test aimed at reducing unnecessary angiograms — the expensive and somewhat risky procedures that hundreds of thousands of Americans each year have to check for clogged arteries. Most of these exams, done in hospital cardiac catheterization labs, turn out negative.

A simple blood test to show who truly needs an angiogram would help, and 6,000 people have had the gene test since it went on sale last year. It has drawbacks, though. It suggests too many chronic chest pain sufferers have heart disease when they really don’t and misses it in others who do.

Several heart specialists say they need to see better results. But similar tests are used now to guide breast cancer treatment and organ transplants, and many doctors think they’ll eventually prove valuable for heart disease.

Today, an American Heart Association journal will publish details of an international effort by scientists to pool information and find more of the genes that affect risk.

“This could ultimately really help to reduce unnecessary angiograms,’’ Dr. Eric Topol of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., said of the test.

He led the study of the test, called Corus CAD. Its maker, CardioDx of Palo Alto, Calif., paid for the study. The research was published yesterday in Annals of Internal Medicine.

The test, which costs $1,195, is for nonemergency cases. Unlike other tests that try to predict the odds of someday developing heart disease, this one aims to tell whether a patient has it now.

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