Ovarian Cancer Dream Team Helps With Genetic Testing Process
Kristie L. Kahl
A new study may help make the genetic testing process more convenient in real-time, according to Stephanie V. Blank, M.D., of director of gynecologic oncology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
At the 2018 National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) Annual Conference, Blank offered an update on the Ovarian Cancer Dream Team, a group devoted to ovarian cancer research – funded by Stand Up To Cancer, Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, Ovarian Cancer National Alliance, NOCC and the American Association for Cancer Research.
Over three years, the Dream Team has focused on DNA repair therapies, prevention and early detection. In its most recent efforts, the group is launching the MAGENTA study – which stands for Making Genetic Testing Accessible, Blank said.
The MAGENTA study aims to improve availability of genetic testing for hereditary cancer syndromes to at-risk women using an online testing service. The objective is to ultimately help make genetic testing more accessible, without requiring women to travel to their health care provider for multiple lengthy visits.
“One of the issues with genetic testing is because it can be expensive, and it is very time consuming, you have to sit and have two-hour long appointments with genetic counselors, wait for results, and have another appointment,” explained Blank.
The tag line for the study: Genetic testing from your living room. “One of the aims, which is the one that looks at women at an increased genetic risk for ovarian cancer, is figuring out better ways to identify them and ways to make their risk reducing surgery more acceptable,” she added.
To qualify for the study, women are asked to complete the eligibility questionnaire. The study requires women to fill out personal and family history information, undergo genetic testing for 19 genes associated with inherited cancer risk, and complete a series of online questionnaires regarding their experience at 3 months, 1 year and 2 years afterwards.
“This is looking at more real-time or convenient ways to get that information,” said Blank. “Basically, you get four groups looking to see measures in terms of the stress this causes and how people feel about the process. It has potential to make a huge impact on the accessibility of genetic testing, so that is very exciting.”
One group of women in the study will undergo pre- and post-genetic testing counseling over the phone.
“Counseling is really important as part of genetic testing. The important piece of genetic testing is it allows us to find people at an increased genetic risk for cancer who can actually take measures to save their lives,” said Blank.
Overall, the study aims to enroll 3,000 women.
“I believe all cancers can really be preventable, and the way that they would be preventable is if people at increased genetic risk knew early on and could take measures to prevent these cancers,” Blank said. “If everyone who is at an increased genetic risk were to plan their families earlier, pursue fertility earlier, remove their fallopian tubes and ovaries before they get cancer, we can really markedly decrease the chance of ovarian cancer.”
At the end of the day, Blank has just one end goal: to someday never see another patient in her office with ovarian cancer. A goal for which she is hopeful.
“It’s a really exciting time in the world of ovarian cancer, because there have been a lot of advances, new treatments and discoveries. So, I’m looking forward to see what the next five years have to bring.”