Genetic Disorder Reference Sheet: ATM Pathogenic Variants
An estimated 1%–2% of adults have one pathogenic ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) gene variant (heterozygous) and are considered carriers. People who are homozygous (two altered copies) have ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T), a hereditary condition that often appears in childhood and is characterized by progressive neurologic problems that lead to difficulty walking and an increased risk for developing various malignancies. Children with A-T may begin staggering and appear unsteady (ataxia) shortly after learning to walk.
NIH Provides $185 Million to Advance Understanding of Human Genome Functions
To drive the advancement of our understanding of the human genome, the National Institute of Health (NIH) is providing $185 million in funding over the next five years, the agency announced in September 2021.
This Is Why Red Meat Increases Colorectal Cancer Risk
Frequent red and processed meat consumption leaves a specific pattern of DNA damage in colorectal cells that contributes to the formation of tumors, researchers reported in study findings published in Cancer Discovery.
A Body of Evidence Helps Nurses Manage CAR T-Cell Therapy Toxicities
When chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies were first approved for cancer in 2017, nurses didn’t have years of clinical practice experience with the treatment to understand its full scope of nursing implications yet. Now that nearly five years have passed—and new CAR T-cell therapies have been approved, bringing the total number of treatments to five as well—oncology nurses and nurse scientists have built a robust knowledge base.
Prognostic Biomarkers May Help Predict Rhabdomyosarcoma Outcomes
TP53 and MYOD1 variants are associated with more aggressive forms of rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare childhood cancer, and poorer outcomes, according to the results of the largest international genomic profiling study of the disease. The findings, which were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, have implications for somatic biomarker testing to guide tailored treatment approaches.
Whole-Genome Sequencing May Guide Treatment Choices for AML and MDS
When compared to conventional testing on the same samples from patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), whole-genome sequencing–based testing detected the same abnormalities—and new genetic information in about a quarter of patients, potentially changing treatment selection for more than half of those patients, researchers said in the New England Journal of Medicine.
New Form of CAR T Cells May Target Genetic Alteration Common to All Cancers
Scientists created a new cancer immunotherapy approach that uses a new type of CAR T cells to stimulate an immune response against cells that are missing one gene copy. They reported their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
What Is CRISPR?
Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) is a commonly seen term for readers of science news and literature across a variety of industries. But reading the word often doesn’t automatically translate to understanding it and its implications. Here’s what oncology nurses need to know about CRISPR.
Genetic Disorder Reference Sheet: MUTYH-Associated Polyposis
MUTYH-associated polyposis (MAP) is an autosomal recessive hereditary cancer syndrome. It’s most commonly seen in people of northern European ancestry, where an estimated 1 in 20,000–40,000 have MAP (two pathogenic variants on opposite chromosomes) and 1%–2% have one MUTYH pathogenic variant.
Genetic Disorder Reference Sheet: BRCA1 and BRCA2 Hereditary Cancers
BRCA1- or BRCA2-associated hereditary breast and ovarian cancer is the most common form of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. The prevalence of BRCA1 and BRCA2 pathogenic variants in the general population is estimated at 1 in 400–500 people, although it increases to 1 in 40 for those of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, which is linked to three founder pathogenic variants (BRCA1 c.68_69delAG, BRCA1c.5266dupC, and BRCA2 c.5946delT).
Genomics Test Guides Treatment Decisions for Prostate Cancer
The Decipher genomics test, which measures activity of 22 genes among seven known cancer pathways, independently estimates patients’ risk of prostate cancer metastasis, death, and overall survival and helps identify patients most likely to benefit from hormone therapy, researchers reported in study findings published in JAMA Oncology.
NHGRI Proposes Action Agenda for Building Diverse Genomics Workforce
Thanks to the National Institutes of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), cancer treatments and cures once out of reach are now closer than ever. So is our understanding about the human condition. As part of its latest strategic vision for the future of human genomics, NHGRI announced an action agenda to substantially enhance the industry’s workforce diversity by 2030.
The Case of the Targeted Therapy Toxicity
Tyrone is a 74-year-old man with a history of acute myeloid leukemia (AML), type 2 diabetes, and hypertension who was admitted to the hospital after lab results revealed 40% circulating blasts in his peripheral blood that was concerning for relapsed disease. He was diagnosed with AML three years ago and achieved remission after treatment with a hypomethylating agent.
Genetic Disorder Reference Sheet: CHEK2 Gene Pathogenic Variants
The CHEK2 (checkpoint kinase 2) tumor suppressor gene provides cells with instructions for making a protein known as CHK2, which becomes active when the cell’s DNA is damaged or strands of it break. CHEK2 halts cell division and enables either cell repair or destruction. Without a properly functioning CHEK2 gene, cells lose a key restraint on their growth which may lead to uncontrolled cells and possibly malignancy. CHEK2*1100delC is the most common pathogenic variant and most prevalent in European populations.
Genetic Disorder Reference Sheet: Lynch Syndrome (Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer)
Lynch syndrome, now referred to as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), was first identified in a family in 1895. In 1966, Henry Lynch reported a series of families with colon and other cancers in the Nebraska area. Today, the evidence shows that HNPCC is associated with germline pathogenic variants in the MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, PMS2, and EPCAM genes.
Genomics Provides Insight on Exceptionally Responding Patients
Patients with cancer who experience unexpected and long-lasting treatment outcomes are considered exceptional responders, but researchers and clinicians had no insight as to why the patients did so well with treatment. Results of a new study now show that genomic characterizations of cancer can uncover genetic alterations that may contribute to the phenomenon, researchers reported in Cancer Cell.
Genomics May Trick PARP Inhibitors to Treat More Cancers
Turning on the body’s inflammasome with epigenetic therapy may improve the efficacy of PARP inhibitors across multiple tumor types, possibly expanding the therapy’s application to new cancers, researchers reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
What Is the Role of Genetic Counselors in Cancer Care?
Our understanding of cancer’s genetic components is constantly growing, with new cancer susceptibility genes discovered every year that change how we screen for and treat cancer. Genetics specialists keep up with the latest information and implications of genetic results is and can be a great addition to comprehensive oncology teams.
Harnessing the Power of Genes
Since the mapping of the human genome in 2003, genetic testing has rapidly evolved from single-gene tests to more complex profiles that measure multiple genes; it’s now part of standard care for many cancer types. Precision oncology allows clinicians to take patient-specific genomic factors into consideration when making treatment decisions, which can lead to improved outcomes, lower overall cost, and fewer side effects.
Winning Team Reduces Disparities to Biomarker Testing in First-Ever ONS Hackathon
The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) launched its inaugural ONS Hackathon™ on November 9, 2020, a competition designed to identify innovative ways to address challenging issues in the delivery of quality cancer care. Meghan O. Coleman, DNP, CRNP, and Alison McDaniel, BSN, RN, OCN®’s winning project, Evidence-Based Quality Understanding in Pathology, provided ways to solve the problem of unequal access to biomarker and other genetic and genomic testing.
Get Answers to Your Most Frequently Asked Genomics and Cancer Questions
Approximately 700 members responded to ONS’s 2020 genomics survey, which gauged oncology nurses’ current genomic knowledge, applications in practice, and the specific questions they have about genetics and genomics. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions based on the survey responses.
Breast Cancer Prevention, Screening, Diagnosis, Treatment, Side Effect, and Survivorship Considerations
In the United States, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. One in eight women will develop invasive disease in their lifetime with approximately 270,00 new cases diagnosed in the United States in 2019. Caucasian women have the highest incidence rate, whereas African American women are most likely to die from the disease. The five-year survival rate is 91%, with an estimated 3.8 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States.
What Is a Genomic Variant?
The Human Genome Project determined the DNA sequence (order of base pairs) of the entire human genome. Humans are 99.9% identical at the level of base pair ordering, but the 0.1% difference contributes to disease risk. Upon completion of the human genetic blueprint, research turned to identifying and cataloguing genomic variation as well as determining the clinical relevance of variants.
FDA Approves Pralsetinib for Lung Cancer With RET Gene Fusions
On September 4, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted accelerated approval to pralsetinib (Gavreto™) for adult patients with metastatic, RET fusion-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) as detected by an FDA approved test.
As True Detectives, Genetics Professionals Uncover the Meaning of True or Noninformative Negative Results
Patients who watch crime shows think that DNA testing is as simple as taking a cheek swab and getting the results in two minutes so the case is solved at the end of the 42-minute episode. The reality? DNA can be identified from buccal cells in a cheek swab, but results take several weeks to obtain and are not always a simple negative or positive.
Help Patients Understand Genomic Variants of Unknown Significance
Patients approach genetic testing, either for germline (inherited) or somatic (tumor) alterations, hoping it will provide valuable information about their cancer risk, prognosis, or treatment options. Next-generation sequencing makes it possible to test for panels of 40 or more genes simultaneously. By testing more genes, the possibility of finding an actionable, informative result improves, but so does the chance of having a result with one or more variants of unknown clinical significance.
An Oncology Nurse’s Primer on Genomics and Biomarker Terminology
With the massive paradigm shift in cancer therapy to precision medicine, the use of biomarkers and biomarker testing has also rapidly evolved to guide treatment selection. However, the terminology used in genomics is complex and inconsistent, and patient advocacy organizations recommend using a common taxonomy to prevent confusion among patients and providers alike. Nurses spend more time with patients and families than any other member of the healthcare team and can reinforce common language and terminology. As a nurse, here are the terms you need to understand.
Family Risk Factors May Indicate Need for Genetics Counseling Referrals
Genetics testing is not just about one family member; the results have implications for an entire family. Results of genetic testing can be confusing, and families often need assistance understanding what it means for them. Genetics counseling before and after testing is very important to help individuals and families understand the results of genetic testing when they are received and over time.
What Happens During a Genetics Counseling Session?
When referring patients for genetics counseling and possible testing for hereditary risk, oncology nurses can help relieve their trepidation and anxiety by explaining what to expect during the visit. See the sidebar for key indications for referral.
Genomic Data Changes Care for Cancer Survivors
Further understanding of the human genome and the proliferation of genetic data has spurred significant advancement in the understanding of the way cancer impacts individuals. To share the crucial work in genetics, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), led by the National Institute for Cancer (NCI), has compiled survivor stories from patients who have benefited from cutting-edge genomic technology. Their stories illustrate and contribute to the ongoing successes brought on by NIH’s genomic efforts.
World Gets Closer to Identifying Cancer’s Genomic Drivers
Although most cancers contain four to five driver mutations, those drivers remain unknown for about 5% of cancers, according to results of a series of studies examining genomes from 38 different cancer types. The international Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes Consortium reported the findings in a collection of 23 articles published in Nature and other affiliated journals.
How DNA Sequencing Technologies Are Used in Cancer Care, Now and in the Future
Genomic testing identifies germline or inherited DNA changes that increase a person’s cancer risk, and it also can identify or profile the somatic or acquired changes in a tumor that guide selection of appropriate targeted therapies. The latter type of genomic testing is an analysis of DNA sequence information.
Germline and Somatic Mutations: What Is the Difference?
Cancer occurs from pathogenic genetic variants (formerly referred to as mutations) that involve changes in the order of the base pairs, including substitutions, deletions, additions, or shifts. Pathogenic variants can be divided into two broad categories based on the tissue from which they originate.
Multigene Testing Is Cost Effective for All Women With Breast Cancer
According to findings from a new analysis published in JAMA Oncology, multigene testing should be expanded to all women with breast cancer and not just those with certain family histories or clinical factors.
What Is the Difference Between Genetics and Genomics?
Genetics versus genomics: Is there a difference? Does it even matter? There is, and it does. In our era of precision medicine, also referred to as individualized or genomic medicine, being able to differentiate the terms is a first step in establishing a foundational understanding of what they mean for cancer care from prevention to treatment.
Advanced Cancer Screening Coverage; ACA Remains Strong; Medicare for All Cost
Precision medicine has a been a hot topic in health care for years now, but costs and coverage issues have created challenges to get patients the genetic testing they need at an affordable cost. In a memo from October 29, 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed extending Medicare coverage to pay for genetic sequencing tests for certain hereditary types of ovarian and breast cancer.
FDA Approves Entrectinib for NTRK Solid Tumors and ROS-1 NSCLC
On August 15, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted accelerated approval to entrectinib (RozlytrekTM) for adults and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older with solid tumors that have a neurotrophic tyrosine receptor kinase (NTRK) gene fusion without a known acquired resistance mutation, are metastatic or where surgical resection is likely to result in severe morbidity, and have progressed following treatment or have no satisfactory standard therapy.
Continued Conversation Shows That Nurses Need More Genetics Education
During the 44th Annual ONS Congress in April 2019, some sessions featured a Continuing the Conversation event following the main session. As a speaker, this might have been the best part for me. It was filled with unexpected, wonderful surprises and great conversations with oncology nursing colleagues.
NIH All of Us Campaign Celebrates First Anniversary
As part of the rising wave of precision medicine initiatives, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the All of Us campaign in 2018. This one-of-a-kind research program aimed to collect data from more than one million Americans, including factors about lifestyle, environment, and biology, to understand impacts on health and well being. The information would help researchers to better understand the individual nature of health to ultimately inform decisions about delivering precision medicine.
Beta Data Browser Puts Precision Medicine Cohort at Researchers’ Fingertips
The future of cancer care is here: precision medicine has led to many of today’s newest cancer treatments and has made incredible progress since former President Barak Obama first announced the U.S. Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI) in 2015.
U.S. Rep Cummings Introduces Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act
After recent a best-selling book-turned-movie detailed her story, Henrietta Lacks’ extraordinary impact on cancer research. However, many more are still unaware of how her story, struggle with cancer, and tumor cells changed the face of cancer care. For that reason, Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), along with a congressional delegation from both chambers, introduced legislation to both honor her role in history and improve access to medical research to traditionally underrepresented groups.
New Genetics Service Delivery Models Help Patients Access Genetic Counseling
As genetic and genomic testing become more common—and complex—in cancer diagnosis and treatment decisions, more efficient and accessible ways of providing comprehensive genetic care are needed. In their article in the February 2019 issue of the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing, Pierle and Mahon discussed the findings from their literature review, specifically pertaining to genetics care services across the cancer continuum, patient and system barriers to accessing care, new service delivery models, and oncology nurses’ role in providing comprehensive cancer genetics care services.
Guidelines Insufficient for Prostate Cancer Germline Genetic Testing
According to researchers, only 43.8% of positive genetic variants detected in men with prostate cancer had corresponding recommendations for germline testing in National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines. The findings were published in JAMA Oncology.
The Case of the Belated BRCA Test
Eighteen months after completing surgical debulking and chemotherapy for stage III high-grade serous ovarian cancer, 56-year-old Lily experienced a rising CA-125 level. At her oncologist’s recommendation, Lily started an aromatase inhibitor, but it did not stop the rising tumor marker. After she began experiencing symptoms of bloating and mild abdominal pain, Lily and her oncologist decided to proceed with second-line chemotherapy. As she left the office, Lily remarked that she did not complete genetic testing when she was originally diagnosed because she does not have any children or a family history of ovarian cancer and she was concerned that her insurance would not cover the testing.
What Genetics Means in Hereditary Cancer
Genetic testing and genetics care are playing an increasingly important role in oncology and are continually evolving, Suzanne M. Mahon, DNSc, RN, AOCN®, AGN-BC, of the School of Nursing at Saint Louis University in Missouri, said during a session on Thursday, April 11, 2019, at the ONS 44th Annual Congress in Anaheim, CA.
Biosimilars, Oral Agents, and Drugs Targeting Genetic Mutations Are Creating a Paradigm Shift in Cancer Treatment
New treatment options continue to emerge for diseases that until recently had limited, if any, treatment choices. Nurses are seeing more changes in the way treatment regimens come together, biosimilars are presenting viable options for patients, and genetic mutations, as opposed to disease sites, are at the forefront of drug development.
What Does the Research Say About Genetic Testing and Underserved Populations?
Underserved communities largely have low rates of cancer genetic testing. Although the reasons vary, they can include lack of referrals, no or underinsurance, prohibitive cost, lack of trust, lack of knowledge, discrimination issues, or competing health needs.
How Do You Address Unanticipated Genomic Testing Results?
Genomic testing—identifying variants, like mutations, in tumor cells to inform patient treatment options—occasionally comes with unanticipated results that clinicians have to address with their patients. Clinicians and patients alike are often hopeful that tumor genomic testing will identify a personalized cancer treatment. Indeed, many patients have benefited from being candidates for new targeted therapies identified through genomic testing.