UCL News


Breast cancer genetic testing

20 December 2005

Leading breast cancer specialists from across the UK gathered at UCL on 14 December 2005 for a major conference on breast cancer genetics testing.

Co-organised by UCL and CancerBACUP, Europe's leading cancer information service, 'BRCA Testing: Opening the Dialogue' provided scientists with a forum to discuss the most recent concerns and advancements in testing, for women who may be at a high genetic risk of developing breast cancer.

Dr James Mackay, Consultant Clinical Genetic Oncologist at the UCL Institute of Human Genetics and Health, said: "This conference is a great opportunity to discuss the important issues around the needs of women who may have a genetic disposition to breast cancer."

A major survey by CancerBACUP was launched at the event, which reveals the wide variety in services offered by Regional Genetics Centres testing women for the BRAC1 and BRAC2 breast cancer genes.

The survey shows that at some centres, women are waiting up to 18 months to find out if they carry the gene, and up to nine months for their first appointment with a geneticist. Only half of UK genetic laboratories are testing 100 per cent of BRCA genes, and a variety of approaches to consent and communication for retesting exists.

UCL scientists also discussed a survey they conducted of patients in London shows that 40 percent of women would prefer to give renewed consent before testing takes place.

"While the survey offering a snapshot of former patients' opinions showed that 40 per cent of women would like to be re-contacted before their genes are re-tested, only half of the women asked remembered that they had given consent for testing in the future if technology improved," said Dr MacKay.

Cancer BACUP is calling for women to be made aware that all centres are offering 100 per cent testing of the genes, and that all centres will give them the option of having their genes retested within a reasonable timescale.