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Integrating stakeholder perspectives into the translation of cell-free fetal DNA testing for aneuploidy

Lauren C Sayres1*, Megan Allyse1 and Mildred K Cho12

Author Affiliations

1 Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford University, 1215 Welch Road Modular A, Stanford, California, 94301, USA

2 Department of Pediatrics, Division of Genetics, Stanford University, 1215 Welch Road Modular A, Stanford, California, 94301, USA

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Genome Medicine 2012, 4:49  doi:10.1186/gm348

Published: 21 June 2012

Abstract

Background

The translation of novel genomic technologies from bench to bedside enjoins the comprehensive consideration of the perspectives of all stakeholders who stand to influence, or be influenced by, the translational course. Non-invasive prenatal aneuploidy testing that utilizes cell-free fetal DNA (cffDNA) circulating in maternal blood is one example of an innovative technology that promises significant benefits for its intended end users; however, it is currently uncertain whether it will achieve widespread clinical implementation. We conducted qualitative interviews with 18 diverse stakeholders in this domain, including prospective users of the technology and healthcare personnel, researchers and developers, and experts in social, legal, and regulatory aspects of genetic technology, and a pilot survey of 62 obstetric healthcare providers. Analysis of interview and survey data was combined with a review of the proceedings of a full-day, multidisciplinary conference on the topic and published scientific and ethics literature surrounding this and other relevant technologies.

Discussion

We constructed potential pathways for technological implementation, identified broad stakeholder classes party to these translational processes, and performed a preliminary assessment of the viewpoints and interrelations among these diverse stakeholders. Some of the stakeholders whose priorities are critical to understand and integrate into translation include pregnant women and their families; healthcare providers; scientists, their institutions or companies, and the funding agencies that support them; regulatory and judicial bodies; third-party payers; professional societies; educational systems; disability rights communities; and other representatives from civil society. Stakeholder interviews, survey findings, and conference proceedings add complexity to these envisioned pathways and also demonstrate a paramount need to incorporate an iterative stakeholder analysis early and throughout the translational endeavor. We believe that the translational framework that we have developed will help guide crucial future stakeholder mapping and engagement activities for cffDNA aneuploidy testing and inform novel methods of technology assessment for other developments in the growing field of genomic medicine.

Summary

Mapping potential pathways for implementation and exploring the attitudes and interrelations of diverse stakeholders may lead to more effective translation of a novel method of prenatal aneuploidy testing.