The Federal Center for Expertise on Health care (KCE) published two studies that show very strong links between genetics and cancer, particularly breast cancer, on Tuesday. The first study talks about genetic tests to determine predisposition within families. It proposes recommendations to genetic testing centers, who deal with more and more women who fear they have, or have passed on, a hereditary risk. The study second talks about new “molecule profiling” tests, which can help give a precise prognosis of the cancer and determine the treatments needed. The number of concerned women who consult genetic services has increased since the media coverage of actress Angelia Jolie’s mastectomy procedure. She has a hereditary predisposition to breast cancer, the KCE added.
What to do depends on the level of risk, says the KCE in its first study. “For known mutations of the BRCA1 or 2 genes (like Angelina Jolie), we know the cancer risk is very high. It is important to say that mastectomy is not the only way to prevent it”. Yearly MRIs and mammograms are also recommended for high risk women.
In its second study, the KCE studied the possibilities of molecule profiling. Depending on what mutations they find in cancerous tissue taken from patients, they can judge what the risks of metastasis or chances of remission are. They can then plan chemotherapy for women who are low risk, without diminishing their chances of survival.
The KCE has said that the validity of the prognosis with these tests is high. It helps to predict the risk of metastasis over 10 years, for example. The center has said, however, that there is little proof of its clinical usefulness, as yet. “The test can be defined as capable of increasing the patient’s chances, by leading to a change in treatment for example, compared to routine tests”.
The clinical usefulness must be studied for longer, says the KCE, which calls on the Public Health SPF (Federal Public Service) to do a “pilot study” on it in Belgium.