GCGP Leadership Contributes to NIH-Funded Research

Leadership-ContributesAs associate director of the Genetic Counseling Graduate Program (GCGP) at The Ohio State University, Leigha Senter, MS, CGC, stays busy wearing multiple hats, including those of course director and thesis director, as well as being a part of the graduate program’s Leadership Team. In addition to her work for the GCGP, Senter is a genetic counselor who specializes in cancer and works with patients in clinic two days a week. As though this were not enough, she — like many faculty at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC) — is also involved in research.

Senter’s expertise as a cancer genetic counselor is currently being tapped by a research team in the Translational Therapeutics Program, where she is partnering with experts in an interdisciplinary project led by Daniel Stover, MD, a medical oncology specialist. The team is examining methods of delivering patient education surrounding somatic testing, an increasingly common component of oncology treatment that leads to the use of targeted therapies based on the genetics of a particular patient’s cancer cells. This National Institutes of Health-funded project furthers the work of published expert options suggesting that providers educate their patients about the benefits and limitations of this kind of testing, and aims to use easy-to-understand video messages to achieve this end. The videos being tested also introduce patients to the idea that sometimes tumor testing can reveal information that might be important for a patient’s family.

“While not designed to detect hereditary cancer syndromes, tumor genomic testing can sometimes suggest that a patient or family might have inherited increased risks for one or more kinds of cancer,” says Senter. “We want to make sure this doesn’t take patients or providers by surprise, and that we are prepared to address this in a way that meets the patients’ needs and also works in a practical way inside the busy oncology clinics.”

Senter leverages her research acumen in her oversight of the thesis component of the GCGP degree requirements, where she connects students with experts like Dr. Stover from around The Ohio State University so they can pursue their research topics of interest. This opportunity for interdisciplinary research extends to all programs in The Ohio State University College of Medicine, as well as the seven other health care colleges present at Ohio State, such as the College of Pharmacology and College of Public Health. With the help of Senter and others around the university, these boundless opportunities allow GCGP graduates to go on to publish their own research, thereby furthering the literature and practice of the genetic counseling field.

If you'd like to connect with a student or alumni of the Ohio State Genetic Counseling Graduate Program, please contact our office at OhioStateGCGP@osumc.edu.