There are many genetic tests that provide information about cancer risk - but how are ethical judgements made about who should be offered them? When do the benefits of knowing that you are at increased risk of a hereditary cancer outweigh the harmful anxiety it causes, and who decides how the patient's health should then be managed?
In an article published online by Nature Reviews Cancer (Vol. 6, No. 6) two experts in the use of genetic testing call for primary-care physicians and oncologists to work with medical geneticists and genetic counsellors, to identify the best clinical course of action.
Such a framework will help clinicians to recognise potential genetic risk and identify people for testing while also weighing this information against the potential risks of overdiagnosis, overtreatment, or of identifying a mutation of unknown significance. Consensus-based guidelines are already being developed to help clinicians decide when a genetic test has sufficient potential benefit to be used. Indeed, in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is putting some of these guidelines into practice.
Wylie Burke (University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA)
Ezzie Hutchinson (Chief Editor, Nature Reviews Cancer)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature Reviews Cancer press release.
Posted by: Tressie Dalaya
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza