How Far Do We Go With Genetic Evaluation? Gene, Panel, and Tumor Testing.

The traditional model by which an individual was identified as harboring a hereditary susceptibility to cancer was to test for a mutation in a single gene or a finite number of genes associated with a particular syndrome (e.g., BRCA1 and BRCA2 for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer or mismatch repair genes for Lynch syndrome). The decision regarding which gene or genes to test for was based on a review of the patient’s personal medical history and their family history. With advances in next-generation DNA sequencing technology, offering simultaneous testing for multiple genes associated with a hereditary susceptibility to cancer is now possible. These panels typically include high-penetrance genes, but they also often include moderate- and low-penetrance genes. A number of the genes included in these panels have not been fully characterized either in terms of their cancer risks or their management options. Another way some patients are unexpectedly identified as carrying a germline mutation in a cancer susceptibility gene is at the time they undergo molecular profiling of their tumor, which typically has been carried out to guide treatment choices for their cancer. This article first focuses on the issues that need to be considered when deciding between recommending more targeted testing of a single or a small number of genes associated with a particular syndrome (single/limited gene testing) versus performing a multigene panel. This article also reviews the issues regarding germline risk that occur within the setting of ordering molecular profiling of tumors.

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