Weighing BRCA Mutation Testing

CURE, Fall 2010, Volume 9, Issue 3

For those weighing whether to get their BRCA mutation status checked, the potential promise of the PARP inhibitors shouldn’t tip the balance—yet.

For those weighing whether to get their BRCA mutation status checked, the potential promise of the PARP inhibitors shouldn’t tip the balance—yet, according to two oncologists.

They cite a couple of reasons, most notably the highly restricted availability of the drugs. “It’s challenging for patients to get access to PARP inhibitors unless a clinical trial is open at a cancer center near their home,” says oncologist Joyce O’Shaughnessy, MD.

But both O’Shaughnessy and Dana-Farber’s Eric Winer, MD, think that scenario will change over time, along with the decisions involved. “I think it is likely there will be more BRCA1 and BRCA2 testing performed once these [drugs] are commercially available, but much more research is very much needed,” Winer says.

Kristin Zorn, MD, a gynecologic oncologist at the Magee-Womens Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, is more bullish, saying she’s already become more proactive about raising genetic counseling with her ovarian cancer patients. Traditionally, some women have postponed genetic testing as they cope with diagnosis, surgery, and other treatment, she says.

“They put genetic testing on the back burner and ultimately never get it,” she says. “We are trying to reinvigorate that population to thinking about getting genetically tested now that the whole PARP inhibition question has become such an exciting story.”