Public Perception of Predictive Cancer Genetic Testing and Research in Oregon
Journal of Genetic Counseling
Cancer -- Genetics -- Research
The potential for using widespread genetic testing to inform health care has become a viable option, particularly for heritable cancers. Yet, little is known about how to effectively communicate the benefits and risks of both personal genetic testing and participation in biorepositories that aid scientific advancements. Nationwide efforts are engaging communities in large genetic studies to better estimate the population‐wide prevalence of heritable cancers but have been met with hesitance or declination to participate in some communities. To successfully engage an Oregon population in longitudinal research that includes predictive genetic testing for pathogenic or likely pathogenic variants associated with an increased risk for cancer, researchers conducted 35 focus groups (two of which were held in Spanish) in 24 of Oregon's 36 counties to better understand knowledge and attitudes related to genetic testing and willingness to participate in longitudinal genetic research. A total of 203 adults (mean = 45.6 years; range 18–88), representing a range of education levels and prior knowledge of genetic research, participated in the focus groups. The majority (85%) of participants reported personal or family diagnoses of cancer (e.g., self, family, friends). A majority (87%) also reported a strong interest in cancer genetic testing and receiving genetic information about themselves. Nearly all focus groups (94%, 33 of 35 sites) included participant discussion citing their families (e.g., children, close relatives, and extended family members) as key motivators for participation in genetic research. For example, participants reported interest in increasing personal knowledge about their own and their families’ cancer risks in order to respond proactively, if a pathogenic variant was found. While most focus groups (94%, 33 of 35 sites) included participant discussion describing barriers to predictive genetic, testing such as concerns about outcomes, the desire to learn about health risks in oneself mitigated or outweighed those fears for many participants. Other commonly reported concerns were related to potential mistrust of insurance companies, researchers, or institutions, or lack of knowledge about genetics, genetic testing, or genetic research. Participants, particularly in rural areas, highlighted critical factors for research recruitment, such as trust, personal interaction, public education about genetic research, and clear communication about study goals and processes. Our statewide findings reflect that public interest in predictive cancer genetic testing and cancer genetic research can surpass lack of knowledge of the complex topics, particularly when benefits for self and family are emphasized and when study considerations are well articulated.
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Alvord, T. W., Marriott, L. K., Nguyen, P. T., Shafer, A., Brown, K., Stoller, W., ... & Solomon, E. (2020). Public perception of predictive cancer genetic testing and research in Oregon. Journal of Genetic Counseling.