Evaluation of Recipients of Positive and Negative Secondary Findings Evaluations in a Hybrid CLIA-Research Sequencing Pilot

Am J Hum Genet. 2018 Sep 6;103(3):358-366. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2018.07.018. Epub 2018 Aug 16.


While consensus regarding the return of secondary genomic findings in the clinical setting has been reached, debate about such findings in the research setting remains. We developed a hybrid, research-clinical translational genomics process for research exome data coupled with a CLIA-validated secondary findings analysis. Eleven intramural investigators from ten institutes at the National Institutes of Health piloted this process. Nearly 1,200 individuals were sequenced and 14 secondary findings were identified in 18 participants. Positive secondary findings were returned by a genetic counselor following a standardized protocol, including referrals for specialty follow-up care for the secondary finding local to the participants. Interviews were undertaken with 13 participants 4 months after receipt of a positive report. These participants reported minimal psychologic distress within a process to assimilate their results. Of the 13, 9 reported accessing the recommended health care services. A sample of 107 participants who received a negative findings report were surveyed 4 months after receiving it. They demonstrated good understanding of the negative secondary findings result and most expressed reassurance (64%) from that report. However, a notable minority (up to 17%) expressed confusion regarding the distinction of primary from secondary findings. This pilot shows it is feasible to couple CLIA-compliant secondary findings to research sequencing with minimal harms. Participants managed the surprise of a secondary finding with most following recommended follow up, yet some with negative findings conflated secondary and primary findings. Additional work is needed to understand barriers to follow-up care and help participants distinguish secondary from primary findings.

Keywords: Mendelian genetic disorders; exome sequencing; incidental findings; psychologic aspects of genetic testing; secondary findings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Exome / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Counseling / methods
  • Genomics / methods
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects