Genetic testing with predictive, preventive health care strategy could be the new annual exam
Could this Naples' club hold the key to a long and healthy life? Behind The Headlines Staff
You can learn what your health might look like in decades and take charge now.
A new option of personalized medicine is available in Naples that taps cutting-edge data analytics developed by a biotechnology firm in San Diego.
Longevity BioImaging opened in January in North Naples to offer clients a total health assessment using comprehensive genetic testing, full body imaging and detailed blood analysis.
The focus is early detection to enlighten clients how they could fall prey to disease and offer guidance on how they can change that trajectory — if need be — for healthy aging and longevity.
“We should all learn our options for early detection and prevention of diseases,” said Sharon Bruno, vice president of Longevity BioImaging. Bruno spent 20 years as a nurse in the traditional “sick care” setting of hospitals.
Along with the genetic results that show diseases to which a client may be predisposed, clients learn how their body will metabolize medications based on their genetics, Bruno said.
Medications, even commonly prescribed blood thinners or cholesterol-lowering drugs, may be ineffective, she said.
A different approach
Longevity BioImaging was launched by Dr. William Kapp, the founder of Landmark Hospital, a long-term care hospital, in North Naples. The center is located in a separate wing at Landmark.
Kapp attended an aging conference that confirmed what he’s known for a long time: Our current approach to health care is not sustainable economically and is rooted in being reactive rather than predictive, which is now possible, he says.
“We’ve been conditioned to, ‘Here’s your problem, here’s your pill,’” he said.
The solution is a preventive model that uses precision diagnostics with gene sequencing and advanced imaging technology that is becoming more affordable, he said.
It’s possible through fitness, nutrition and increased muscle mass to alter how genes express themselves to lower risks of many cancers and other conditions, he said.
“(Artificial intelligence) has given great insight,” Kapp said. “We thought genes was destiny. It is absolutely false.”
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The health assessment at Longevity BioImaging focuses on cancer detection, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
When a client’s test results come back, the center’s medical director, Dr. Carl DuCharme, sits with the client for a detailed review of the findings and offers recommendations. DuCharme formerly practiced as a hospitalist.
It is a client’s decision whether to send their health assessment results to his or her insurance company or not. The out-of-pocket fee for the health assessment is $5,500, Bruno said.
The blood analysis and full body imaging results come back first; the genetic screening results for susceptibility to more than 1,600 hereditary disorders take six to eight weeks.
Who are the patients?
Randy and Karol Smith of Naples had no qualms with the price tag because of what they got back, he said.
A friend’s death at the age of 49 from pancreatic cancer spurred them to have the health assessment, Smith, CEO of Naples Transportation & Tours, said.
“It was great,” said Smith, 52, who had no problem waiting six weeks for the genetic results. His full body imaging found a small mass on his thyroid.
“I had a biopsy and it was benign,” he said. “But I would never have known.”
Karol Smith, 50, said her results were all good.
“I loved finding out what medications won’t work for me,” she said. “We sent our results to our primary care doctor. He was fully supportive of it.”
If something is found in the imaging that needs immediate intervention, a client is told to meet with his or her primary care physician, who can order the next test or decide if monitoring is the best course, DuCharme, the center’s medical director, said.
“We advise them to share all of their reports and results with their primary care physician,” he said.
The average age of Longevity BioImaging clients is 53, DuCharme said.
Diving deep into health data
Since opening, about 100 clients have gone through the health assessment, Bruno said. About 20% are from Naples and the rest come from around the country.
The genetic testing is more comprehensive than what’s offered commercially because artificial intelligence is used to analyze the massive amount of data, DuCharme said.
Longevity BioImaging pays a San Diego-based firm to process clients' data with the artificial intelligence analytics, he said. The San Diego company, Human Longevity Inc., was co-founded five years ago by Craig Venter, a pioneer in genetics who completed the first human genome sequencing in 2000, Kapp said.
The Naples center provides data to the San Diego company for publishing study findings, Kapp said.
The data analytics is able to assess risk for 1,641 hereditary disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.
It's important for people to understand is that an individual’s genes account for two-thirds of risk for Alzheimer’s while lifestyle is one-third of the risk, DuCharme said.
Alzheimer’s risk can be reduced by improving nutrition, exercising and adding muscle mass, along with lifestyle changes like not smoking and avoiding excess alcohol, he said.
“I coach and consult the heck out of them,” DuCharme said.
The expectation in the coming years is a move away from today’s sick care model to health assessments like what’s offered at Longevity BioImaging, DuCharme said.
“We are ultimately going to prove that this should be the new annual physical exam,” he said. “Once the price point is at a cost where everybody can afford it, or if the insurance companies or the government can subsidize it for people.”
Kapp said once someone has the initial health assessment with the genetic sequencing, future annual exams would only involve new full body imaging and the detailed blood work. The follow-up exams would be about half of the initial $5,500, he said.
Kapp said he is looking to add Longevity BioImaging centers in other markets, with Boca Raton as one potential in Florida. Other locations could be Atlanta, New York and Chicago.
Lifestyle coaching and fitness
To help clients get on board with lifestyle changes, they can use the separate offsite Longevity Performance Center.
The performance center combines customized nutrition and exercise plans for each client, Bruno said. The performance center is membership based and does not require clients to have completed the $5,500 health assessment, but many have, Bruno said.
Members wear a wristband for the “smart” exercise equipment that remembers their workouts. After every six work outs, members get a strength test to evaluate how to increase the weights, Lauren Campian, the onsite nurse, said.
The Smiths joined the performance center after their health assessments, which meant switching from where they used to work out. They have seen noticeable improvement in strength and overall health, Karole Smith said.
She is sold on what the nutritionist has done with customized recommendations for their diets.
“I wrote down what I was eating and she analyzed it,” she said. “This center is more focused individually.”