Oct 16, 2014
Compass Oncology physician boosts cancer risk assessment tool
The Portland Physician Scribe
An oncologist/hematologist with Compass Oncology in Portland, Lucy Langer, MD, recently presented findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s 50th annual meeting in Chicago that shined a spotlight on a valuable new tool—a genetic test—that can dramatically improve assessments of a person’s risk of developing several forms of cancer. Langer worked to further review and interpret a test by Myriad Genetic Laboratories using aggregate data. The initial study involved 648 ovarian cancer patients who underwent a screening, between September and December 2013, using a panel of 25 different genes. Normally, genetic cancer screening utilizes only one hand-selected gene at a time to test one syndrome at a time. Langer’s follow-up study confirmed that by using a panel of genes up front, rather than testing one gene at a time, researchers can more quickly and accurately identify genetic changes or mutations. “The panel testing increased the hit rate in finding deleterious mutations, over and above the previous system, by 48 percent,” she said.
By identifying patients with an increased genetic risk, doctors hope to be able to detect cancer earlier by stepping up screening efforts. For example, patients with ovarian cancer are also at increased risk of breast cancer and a form of colorectal cancer called Lynch syndrome. As the director of Compass Oncology’s Genetic Risk Evaluation & Testing Program (GREAT) and medical director of cancer genetics for US Oncology, Langer had a huge interest in how panel testing could change the way scientists screen for genetic syndromes and manage cancer risks. “This is an exciting time for hereditary cancer genetics because the science and the economics have brought us to a place where we can accurately evaluate a large number of genes with a single test,” she said.