Next Generation Genetic Counseling; genetic counseling; Next Generation Sequencing
Next generation sequencing technology is increasingly utilized in oncology with the goal of targeting therapeutics to improve response and reduce side effects. Interpretation of tumor mutations requires sequencing of paired germline DNA, raising questions about incidental germline findings. We describe our experiences as part of a research team implementing a protocol for whole genome sequencing (WGS) of tumors and paired germline DNA known as the Michigan Oncology Sequencing project (MI-ONCOSEQ) that includes options for receiving incidental germline findings. Genetic counselors (GCs) discuss options for return of results with patients during the informed consent process and document family histories. GCs also review germline findings and actively participate in the multi-disciplinary Precision Medicine Tumor Board (PMTB), providing clinical context for interpretation of germline results and making recommendations about disclosure of germline findings. GCs have encountered ethical and counseling challenges with participants, described here. Although GCs have not been traditionally involved in molecular testing of tumors, our experiences with MI-ONCOSEQ demonstrate that GCs have important applicable skills to contribute to multi-disciplinary care teams implementing precision oncology. Broader use of WGS in oncology treatment decision making and American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ACMG) recommendations for active interrogation of germline tissue in tumor-normal dyads suggests that GCs will have future opportunities in this area outside of research settings.
Genetic counseling; Whole genome sequencing; Precision oncology
Advances in whole genome and whole exome sequencing (WGS/WES) technologies have led to increased availability in clinical settings. Currently, there are few guidelines relating to the process and content of informed consent for WGS/WES, nor to which results should be returned to families. To address this gap, we conducted focus groups to assess the views of professionals, parents, and adolescents for the future implementation of WES. The discussions assessed understanding of the risks and benefits of WES, preferences for the informed consent discussion, process for return of results, and the decision-making role of the pediatric patient. Professional focus group participants included bioethicists, physicians, laboratory directors, and genetic counselors. Parent focus groups included individuals with children who could be offered sequencing due to a potential genetic cause of the child’s condition. On-line discussion groups were conducted with adolescents aged 13-17 who had a possible genetic disorder. We identified discrepancies between professionals and patient groups regarding the process and content of informed consent, preference for return of results, and the role of the child in decision-making. Professional groups were concerned with the uncertainty regarding professional obligations, changing interpretation in genomic medicine, and practical concerns of returning results over time. Parent and adolescent groups focused on patient choice and personal utility of sequencing results. Each group expressed different views on the role of the child in decision-making and return of results. These discrepancies represent potential barriers to informed consent and a challenge for genetic counselors regarding the involvement of pediatric patients in decision-making and return of results discussions.
genomic sequencing; informed consent; genetic testing; consumer attitudes
The utilization of genome-wide chromosomal microarray analysis (CMA) in pediatric clinical practice provides an opportunity to consider how genetic diagnostics is evolving, and to prepare for the clinical integration of genome-wide sequencing technologies. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 15 healthcare providers (7 genetic counselors, 4 medical geneticists, and 4 non-genetics providers) to investigate the impact of CMA on clinical practice, and implications for providers, patients and families. Interviews were analyzed qualitatively using content analysis. Most providers reported that genomic testing enhanced their professional experience and was beneficial to patients, primarily due to the improved diagnostic rate compared with earlier chromosomal studies. Other effects on practice included moving towards genotype-first diagnosis and broadening indications for chromosomal testing. Opinions varied concerning informed consent and disclosure of results. The duty to disclose incidental findings (IFs) was noted; however concerns were raised about potential psychosocial harms of disclosing pre-symptomatic findings. Tensions were revealed between the need for comprehensive informed consent for all families and the challenges of communicating time-consuming and potentially anxiety-provoking information regarding uncertain and incidental findings that may be relevant only in rare cases. Genetic counselors can play an important role in liaising with families, health professionals and testing laboratories, providing education and guidance to non-genetics providers, and enabling families to receive adequate pre- and post-test information and follow-up care.
Genomics; Uncertainty; Incidental findings; Clinical pediatrics; Qualitative
As exome and whole genome sequencing become clinically available, the potential to receive a large number of clinically relevant but incidental results is a significant challenge in the provision of genomic counseling. We conducted three focus groups of a total of 35 individuals who were members of ASHG and/or NSGC, assessing views towards the return of genomic results. Participants stressed that patient autonomy was primary. There was consensus that a mechanism to return results to the healthcare provider, rather than patient, and to streamline integration into the electronic health record would ensure these results had the maximal impact on patient management. All three focus groups agreed that pharmacogenomic results were reasonable to return and that they were not felt to be stigmatizing. With regard to the return of medically relevant results, there was much debate. Participants had difficulty in consistently assigning specific diseases to ‘bins’ that were considered obligatory versus optional for disclosure. Consensus was reached regarding the importance of informed consent and pretest counseling visits to clarify what the return of results process would entail. Evidence based professional guidelines should continue to be developed and regularly revised to assist in consistently and appropriately providing genomic results to patients.
Whole genome sequencing; whole exome sequencing; return of results; informed consent; patient autonomy; pretest counseling; professional attitudes
Personalized medicine continues to expand with the development and increasing use of genome-based testing. While these advances present new opportunities for diagnosis and risk assessment, they also present challenges to clinical delivery. Genetic counselors will play an important role in ushering in this new era of testing; however, it will warrant a shift from traditional genetic counseling to “genomic counseling.” This shift will be marked by a move from reactive genetic testing for diagnosis of primarily single-gene diseases to proactive genome-based testing for multiple complex diseases for the purpose of disease prevention. It will also require discussion of risk information for a number of diseases, some of which may have low relative risks or weak associations, and thus, may not substantially impact clinical care. Additionally, genomic counselors will expand their roles, particularly in the area of health promotion to reduce disease risk. This additional role will require a style of counseling that is more directive than traditional counseling and require greater knowledge about risk reducing behaviors and disease screening.
Whole exome sequencing (WES) uses next generation sequencing technology to provide information on nearly all functional, protein-coding regions in an individual's genome. Due to the vast amount of information and incidental findings that can be generated from this technology, patient preferences must be investigated to help clinicians consent and return results to patients. Patients (n=19) who were previously clinically diagnosed with Lynch syndrome, but received uninformative negative Lynch syndrome genetic results through traditional molecular testing methods participated in semi-structured interviews after WES testing but before return of results to explore their views of WES and preferences for return of results. Analyses of interview results found that nearly all participants believed that the benefits of receiving all possible results generated from WES outweighed the undesirable effects. The majority of participants conveyed that relative to coping with a cancer diagnosis, information generated from WES would be manageable. Importantly, participants' experience with Lynch syndrome influenced their notions of genetic determinism, tolerance for uncertain results, and family communication plans. Participants would prefer to receive WES results in person from a genetic counselor or medical geneticist so that an expert could help explain the meaning and implications of the potentially large quantity and range of complicated results. These results underscore the need to study various populations with regard to the clinical use of WES in order to effectively and empathetically communicate the possible implications of this new technology and return results.
Whole exome sequencing; Patient preferences; Return of results; Genetic counseling practice
A major goal of predictive genetic testing is to alert people to their risk before illness onset; however, little is known about how risk perceptions change following genetic testing and whether information is recalled accurately over time. In the United States, a CDKN2A/p16 mutation confers 76% lifetime risk of melanoma. Following genetic counseling and test reporting, subjective risk estimates and recall of counselor-provided risk estimates were assessed 5 times over the next 2 years among 60 adult members of 2 extended CDKN2A/p16 kindreds. No sustained changes from baseline in risk perceptions were reported. Unaffected carriers (n=15) consistently reported significantly lower subjective risk estimates (46%) than they were actually given (76%, p < .001) or recalled having been given (60%, p < .001). Noncarriers’ (n=27) risk estimates decreased following results disclosure, but rebounded, with both subjective and recalled estimates subsequently exceeding what they were told by the counselor (both ps < .001). Affected carriers’ (n=18) risk estimates for developing a new melanoma corresponded well to counselor-provided information (p =.362). For all 3 patient groups, results were consistent across multiple risk measures and remained similar when demographic, phenotypic, and baseline behavioral contributors to melanoma risk were statistically controlled. These findings are consistent with other studies of risk perception, but additional studies of more diverse populations are needed to understand the reasons behind both the persistence of initial risk estimates and their divergence from information provided by the counselor during genetic counseling. Additionally, determining whether holding subjective risk perceptions that differ from counselor-provided information ultimately affects adherence to management recommendations will help guide the presentation of risk information in genetic counseling practice.
melanoma; perceived risk; genetic testing; CDKN2A/p16; genetic counseling
HOXB13 (G84E) was reported to significantly increase risk for prostate cancer. The goal of the current analysis was to assess the prevalence of G84E in ethnically-diverse high-risk men undergoing prostate cancer screening and place the carrier frequency within the context of prevalence estimates from reported studies to gain insight into the future role of this mutation in genetic counseling. PRAP is a prostate cancer screening program for unaffected men ages 35–69 with a family history of prostate cancer or African descent. HOXB13 G84E was genotyped by pyrosequencing in 649 PRAP participants with available DNA. Prevalence of the mutation was calculated for PRAP and for reported studies and exact binomial confidence intervals were generated. Prevalence of the G84E mutation in non-African PRAP men was 0.73 %. When placed in context of the literature, this was higher than reported controls. One G84E mutation carrier was notably of Hispanic background. While the HOXB13 G84E mutation may be rare, there may be a future role in genetic testing for this mutation after further studies of clinical utility in assessing prostate cancer risk.
HOXB13; Family history; Genetic mutations; Prostate cancer
Patient trust in personal medical information is critical to increasing adherence to physician recommendations and medications. One of the anticipated benefits of learning of one’s genomic risk for common diseases is the increased adoption of screening, preventive care and lifestyle changes. However, the equivocal results thus far reported of the positive impact of knowledge of genomic risk on behavior change may be due to lack of patients’ trust in the results. As part of a clinical study to compare two methods of communication of genomic risk results for Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), we assessed patients’ trust and preferred methods of delivery of genomic risk information. A total of 300 participants recruited from the general public in Durham, NC were randomized to receive their genomic risk for T2DM in-person from a genetic counselor or online through the testing company’s web-site. Participants completed a baseline survey and three follow-up surveys after receiving results. Overall, participants reported high levels of trust in the test results. Participants who received their results in-person from the genetic counselor were significantly more likely to trust their results than those who reviewed their results on-line (p=0.005). There was not a statistically significant difference in levels of trust among participants with increased genetic risk, as compared to other those with decreased or same as population risk (p = 0.1154). In the event they undergo genomic risk testing again, 55% of participants overall indicated they would prefer to receive their results online compared to 28% that would prefer to receive future results in-person. Of those participants preferring to receive results online, 77% indicated they would prefer to have the option to speak to someone if they had questions with the online results (compared to accessing results online without the option of professional consultation). This is the first study to assess satisfaction with genomic risk testing by the method of delivery of the test result. The higher rate of trust in results delivered in-person suggests that online access reports may not result in serious consideration of results and lack of adoption of recommended preventive recommendations.
genetic counseling; genomic testing; type 2 diabetes; patient trust; personalized medicine
Married adults are increasingly exposed to test results that indicate an increased genetic risk for adult-onset conditions. For example, a SERPINA1 mutation, associated with alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), predisposes affected individuals to diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cancer, which are often detected in adulthood. Married adults are likely to discuss genetic test results with their spouses, and interpersonal research suggests that spouses’ communication patterns differ. Latent class analysis was used to identify subgroups of spousal communication patterns about AATD results from a sample of married adults in the Alpha-1 Research Registry (N = 130). A five-class model was identified, and the subgroups were consistent with existing spousal-communication typologies. This study also showed that genetic beliefs (e.g., genetic stigma), emotions, and experiences (e.g., insurance difficulties) covaried with membership in particular subgroups. Understanding these differences can serve as the foundation for the creation of effective, targeted communications interventions to address the specific needs and conversational patterns of different kinds of couples.
Genetic test results; spousal communication; latent class analysis; alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD)
Recommendations for women with a deleterious BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation include complex medical approaches related to cancer risk reduction and detection. Current science has not yet fully elucidated decision support needs that women face when living with medical consequences associated with known hereditary cancer risk. The purpose of this study was to describe health communication and decision support needs in healthy women with BRCA1/2 gene mutations. The original researchers completed an interpretive secondary qualitative data analysis of 23 phenomenological narratives collected between 2008 and 2010. The Ottawa Decision Support and Patient Centered Communication frameworks guided the study design and analysis. Women described a pattern wherein breast and ovarian cancer risk, health related recommendations and decisions, and personal values were prioritized over time based on life contexts. Knowing versus acting on cancer risk was not a static process but an ongoing balancing act of considering current and future personal and medical values, further compounded by the complexity of recommendations. Women shared stories of anticipatory, physical and psychosocial consequences of the decision making experience. The findings have potential to generate future research questions and guide intervention development. Importantly, findings indicate a need for ongoing, long-term, support from genetics professionals and decision support interventions, which challenges the current practice paradigm.
Decision support; Hereditary breast and ovarian cancer syndrome; Patient centered care
Genetic counseling and testing for hereditary breast cancer have the potential benefit of early detection and early interventions in African American women. However, African American women have low use of these services compared to White women. We conducted two focus groups with African American women diagnosed with breast cancer (affected group, n=13) and women with at least one first-degree relative with breast/ovarian cancer (unaffected group, n= 8). A content analysis approach was employed to analyze interview data. Breast cancer survivors had more knowledge about genetic counseling and testing than participants who were unaffected with cancer. However, knowledge about genetic counseling was limited in both groups. Barriers to pursuing genetic counseling and testing included poor understanding of the genetic counseling and testing process, fear of carrying the mutation, concerns about discrimination, and cost. Motivators to participate in genetic counseling and testing included desire to help family members, insurance coverage, and potential of benefiting the larger African American community. Education efforts are needed to increase genetic counseling and testing awareness in the African American community.
Provider; minority; African American women; genetic counseling and testing; hereditary breast cancer
Increasing use of predictive genetic testing to gauge hereditary cancer risk has been paralleled by rising cost-sharing practices. Little is known about how demographic and psychosocial factors may influence individuals’ willingness-to-pay for genetic testing. The Gastrointestinal Tumor Risk Assessment Program Registry includes individuals presenting for genetic risk assessment based on personal/family cancer history. Participants complete a baseline survey assessing cancer history and psychosocial items. Willingness-to-pay items include intention for: genetic testing only if paid by insurance; testing with self-pay; and amount willing-to-pay ($25–$2000). Multivariable models examined predictors of willingness-to-pay out-of-pocket (versus only if paid by insurance) and willingness-to-pay a smaller versus larger sum (≤200 vs. ≥$500). All statistical tests are two-sided (α=0.05). Of 385 evaluable participants, a minority (42%) had a personal cancer history, while 56% had ≥1 first-degree relative with colorectal cancer. Overall, 21.3% were willing to have testing only if paid by insurance, and 78.7% were willing-to-pay. Predictors of willingness-to-pay were: 1) concern for positive result; 2) confidence to control cancer risk; 3) fewer perceived barriers to colorectal cancer screening; 4) benefit of testing to guide screening (all p<0.05). Subjects willing-to-pay a higher amount were male, more educated, had greater cancer worry, fewer relatives with colorectal cancer, and more positive attitudes toward genetic testing (all p<0.05). Individuals seeking risk assessment are willing-to-pay out-of-pocket for genetic testing, and anticipate benefits to reducing cancer risk. Identifying factors associated with willingness-to-pay for genetic services is increasingly important as testing is integrated into routine cancer care.
Willingness-to-pay; genetic testing; gastrointestinal; risk; colorectal cancer
Latinas are less likely to use genetic services (counseling and testing) for hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer risk compared to other ethnic groups. Meanwhile, little is known about barriers to genetic counseling among Latinas at increased risk of inherited breast cancer.
A two-phase pilot study was conducted to examine interest, barriers and beliefs about BRCA genetic counseling among at-risk Latinas in New York City and explore the potential for developing a culturally-tailored narrative educational tool for use in future studies. Phase 1 included quantitative telephone interviews (N=15) with bilingual participants with a personal diagnosis at a young age and/or family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer. Quantitative results informed development of a narrative prototype educational presentation viewed by a subset of participants (N=10) in Phase 2 focus groups.
Despite barriers, including lack of awareness/knowledge, concerns related to learning cancer risks of family members, and concerns about cost/health insurance, participants reported positive attitudes, beliefs and interest in learning about BRCA genetic counseling. Further, significant increases in knowledge were demonstrated from pre-post presentation (p=0.04).
There is an unmet need to educate at-risk Latinas about BRCA genetic counseling. Culturally-tailored educational materials including narratives may increase knowledge about BRCA genetic counseling among this underserved group. The effectiveness of these approaches should be tested in future research with larger samples.
Genetic counseling; BRCA; Breast cancer risk; Latinas/Hispanic women; Cancer genetic services; Access to genetic services; Beliefs; Cross-cultural education; Knowledge
Despite the life-saving information that genetic counseling can provide for women at hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer (HBOC) risk, Latinas disproportionately underuse such services. Understanding Latinas’ beliefs and attitudes about BRCA genetic counseling may be the key to better health promotion within this underserved, at-risk group. We conducted 12 focus groups (N=54) with at-risk Latina women in New York City, followed by 30 in-depth interviews among a subset of the focus group women. Both were professionally transcribed, translated where applicable and data analysis was completed by two coders trained in qualitative methods. Results revealed personal and community knowledge about BRCA genetic counseling was relatively low, although women felt largely positive about counseling. The main motivator to undergo genetic counseling was concerns about learning family members’ cancer status, while the main barrier was competing demands. Generational differences were apparent, with younger women (approximately <55 years) reporting that they were more interested in educating themselves about counseling and other ways to prevent cancer. Younger women were also less likely to ascribe to traditionally Latino-centered cultural beliefs which could serve as barriers (e.g. machismo, fatalismo, destino) to undergoing genetic counseling. Participants were largely enthusiastic about educational efforts to increase awareness of genetic counseling among Latinos. Revealing the beliefs and attitudes of underserved Latinas may help shape culturally appropriate educational materials and promotion programs to increase BRCA genetic counseling uptake within this under-represented community.
BRCA; Genetic counseling; Latinas; Breast cancer
This study explores neurologists’ and psychiatrists’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices concerning genetic tests. Psychiatrists (n=5,316) and neurologists (n=2,167) on the American Medical Association master list who had agreed to receive surveys were sent an email link to a survey about their attitudes and practices regarding genetic testing; 372 psychiatrists and 163 neurologists responded. A higher proportion of neurologists (74%) than psychiatrists (14%) who responded to the survey had ordered genetic testing in the past 6 months. Overall, most respondents thought that genetic tests should be performed more frequently, but almost half believed genetic tests could harm patients psychologically and considered legal protections inadequate. Almost half of neurologists (49%) and over 75% of psychiatrists did not have a genetics professional to whom to refer patients; those who had ordered genetic tests were more likely than those who did not do so to have access to a genetic counselor. Of respondents, 10% had received patient requests not to document genetic information and 15% had received inquiries about direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Neurologists reported themselves to be relatively more experienced and knowledgeable about genetics than psychiatrists. These data, the first to examine several important issues concerning knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of neurologists and psychiatrists regarding genetic tests, have important implications for future practice, research, and education.
decision making; insurance; discrimination; ethics; medical education; genetic testing; genetic counseling
Couples often discuss genetic test results, and then manage their implications together. This interdependence can lead to common, shared experiences, similar intrapersonal processes to manage shared stressors, or interpersonal influences between spouses, leading to different outcomes. This study sought to reveal the intracouple, intrapersonal, and interpersonal influences of genetic stigma and negative feelings on spousal communication and perceived stress with 50 couples in which one spouse is a member of a genetic disease registry. The results were analyzed with dyadic analysis, including multilevel modeling. The findings showed that registered members and their spouses were not statistically different in their mean levels of perceived genetic stigma, negative feelings about alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), conversations with each other about the AATD test results, and their perceived stress. The findings also showed that their intracouple consistencies were not high, and their intrapersonal and interpersonal influences on communication and stress differed. The social implications of genetic research at the interpersonal level are discussed.
Married couples; Dyadic analysis; Genetic Stigma; Negative Affect; Communication; Stress
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is an innovative prenatal testing option because the determination of whether a genetic disorder or chromosomal abnormality is evident occurs prior to pregnancy. However, PGD is not covered financially under the majority of private and public health insurance institutions in the United States, leaving couples to decide whether PGD is financially feasible. The aim of this qualitative study was to understand the role of finances in the decision-making process among couples who were actively considering PGD. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were completed with 18 genetic high-risk couples (36 individual partners). Grounded theory guided the analysis, whereby three themes emerged: 1) Cost is salient, 2) Emotions surrounding affordability, and 3) Financial burden and sacrifice. Ultimately, couples determined that the opportunity to avoid passing on a genetic disorder to a future child was paramount to the cost of PGD, but expressed financial concerns and recognized financial access as a major barrier to PGD utilization.
Cost; Decision-making; Economics; Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD); In Vitro Fertilization (IVF); Family Planning; Genetic Counseling; Qualitative Research
Our objective was to explore interest in genetic testing among Ashkenazi Jewish (AJ) Parkinson’s Disease (PD) cases and first-degree relatives, as genetic testing for LRRK2 G2019S is widely available. Approximately 18 % of AJ PD cases carry G2019S mutations; penetrance estimations vary between 24 and 100 % by age 80. A Genetic Attitude Questionnaire (GAQ) was administered at two New York sites to PD families unaware of LRRK2 G2019S mutation status. The association of G2019S, age, education, gender and family history of PD with desire for genetic testing (outcome) was modeled using logistic regression. One-hundred eleven PD cases and 77 relatives completed the GAQ. Both PD cases and relatives had excellent PD-specific genetic knowledge. Among PD, 32.6 % “definitely” and 41.1 % “probably” wanted testing, if offered “now.” Among relatives, 23.6 % “definitely” and 36.1 % “probably” wanted testing “now.” Desire for testing in relatives increased incrementally based on hypothetical risk of PD. The most important reasons for testing in probands and relatives were: if it influenced medication response, identifying no mutation, and early prevention and treatment. In logistic regression, older age was associated with less desire for testing in probands OR=0.921 95%CI 0.868–0.977, p=0.009. Both probands and relatives express interest in genetic testing, despite no link to current treatment or prevention.
Genetic testing; Parkinson’s disease; LRRK2; Ashkenazi jewish; Genetic counseling
Genetic counseling can result in better outcomes when clients understand what to expect, and at least theoretically, at some point in their lifespan, anyone could be referred for or benefit from genetic counseling. Thus, in order to identify (and ultimately address) issues around awareness of genetic counseling and perceptions of its purpose, we surveyed the Canadian general population. We acquired 1000 telephone numbers corresponding to a demographically representative sample of Canada from Survey Sampling International, and invited individuals to participate in a telephone-based survey. We administered a purpose-designed survey (in either French or English) comprising questions regarding: demographics, whether or not the individual had heard of genetic counseling, and 15 Likert scale-rated (strongly disagree – strongly agree) items about the possible purposes of genetic counseling. Responses to these 15 items were used to generate a total “knowledge score”. Of the 1000 numbers, n=372 could not be reached, and the survey was successfully administered to n=188 individuals (response rate 30%). Most respondents (n=129, 69%) had not heard of genetic counseling, and substantial proportions thought that genetic counseling aims to prevent genetic diseases and abnormalities, help couples have children with desirable characteristics, and help people to understand their ancestry. These data could be used to inform the strategy for development of future awareness efforts, and as a baseline from which to measure their effects.
PMID: 23963834 CAMSID: cams3386
Public perception; Genetic counseling awareness; Genetic counseling; Genetic counselor