Should ovarian and breast cancer patients be tested for the BRCA gene?

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DNA genetic testing_oncology news australiaCOSA 2016: Oncology professionals at the COSA ANZBCTG Meeting this afternoon discussed emerging evidence that showed the potential benefits of testing women diagnosed with ovarian or breast cancer for the BRCA gene in order to help inform their treatment.

Attendees also heard how one hospital is trialling integrating genetic testing into mainstream ovarian cancer treatment pathways. Maira Kentwell, Senior Genetic Counsellor at the Parkville Integrated Familial Cancer Centre (combined services of the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and The Royal Melbourne Hospital), shared her experiences from The Royal Women’s Hospital and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, where genetic testing has been incorporated into mainstream care as a part of a woman’s ovarian cancer treatment plan.

Ms Kentwell said it’s been known for many years that the BRCA gene significantly increases a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

“BRCA gene testing has traditionally been undertaken for  women who want to understand their personal risk of developing and breast and ovarian cancer.”

“Research suggests that testing for the BRCA gene after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer may help inform and tailor treatment if the cancer recurs, and so the school of thought on when and why genetic testing should take place is shifting.”  Maira Kentwell, Senior Genetic Counsellor

“Mainstreaming genetic testing is currently a hot topic. While around 10 – 15 percent of women with ovarian cancer carry the BRCA gene, genetic testing is not occurring in many women who are eligible for the test.  The way genetic testing is delivered needs to change and we are realising it needs to be in the oncology setting.  Knowing this helps oncologists tailor treatment options to the unique needs of women and their family members who have a faulty BRCA gene.

age concept women young and senior_oncology news australia“Rather than referring patients for a separate Familial Cancer Clinic appointment for testing, at the Royal Women’s Hospital and the Parkville Familial Cancer Centre, we have a genetic counsellor working alongside oncologists as a part of the core team treating women.”

There are other mainstreaming genetic testing models which have been developed in Australia, such as treatment focused genetic testing by telephone.  For ovarian cancer, a national approach where the medical oncologist orders the genetic testing is due to be rolled out next year.
[hr] Source: COSAVisit the COSA ASM website for more information on speakers, abstracts and scheduled presentations.

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