Do Patients Understand the Role of Cancer Genetic Testing?

Maurie Markman, MD


January 28, 2013

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Hello. I'm Dr. Maurie Markman from Cancer Treatment Centers of America. I wanted to briefly discuss a very interesting paper that appeared in the November 2012 issue of the Journal of Oncology Practice.[1]

This very provocative paper, entitled "Attitudes of Patients With Cancer About Personalized Medicine and Somatic Genetic Testing," looked at a relatively small sample of individuals -- a total of 69 -- who were seen in a cancer clinic and were asked questions about their willingness to undergo such testing.

Interestingly, the majority of individuals did express an interest and felt that the information would be of value, but there was some reluctance expressed, including concerns about information overload and that the information would not really be of value in their care. There was also the question of incidental findings not necessarily having a meaning to them.

I think this is a very important paper because it points out the fact that, as we move forward in this very exciting era where somatic genomic testing of cancers will become really critical to our ability to optimally treat patients, it is essential that our patients -- and the public in general -- be given appropriate information regarding what this is all about.

For example, it is very important that we distinguish for our patients the difference between genetic testing of a tumor and what it means to look at germline abnormalities or germline effects that they may be able to pass on to their progeny.

Obviously, we are talking about something very different here, but when we use the terms "genomic" or "genetic," it brings up meanings to patients that actually may be quite different than we intend.

Again, I think this is an interesting paper. It brings up very important issues regarding the critical nature of explaining to our patients and the public in general about this exciting new world -- but truly a world that needs to be explained regarding our ability to look at genetic and genomic markers within tumors. I thank you for your attention and encourage you to read this interesting paper.