Recently, a new trial funded by the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition and the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance has reported a new possible solution to effective treatment and prevention of cancer through more accessible testing.
More precisely, the researchers were interested in seeing whether easy-to-use testing kits that can also be used at home help improve the outcomes of therapy for hereditary cancer in women.
A number of studies have previously highlighted that hereditary cancers such as ovarian cancer or breast cancer can be treated successfully given that they are diagnosed at an early stage.
However, at the same time, women with a high risk of hereditary cancer are statistically less likely to get tested or screenings for cancer in comparison with those without a hereditary risk for multiple reasons.
One of the known factors that may prevent women from seeking medical attention and getting tests is the amount of time needed for screenings followed by mental distress before and after getting the tests done.
The new trial, known as ‘Making GENetic Testing Accessible’ or MAGENTA recruited around four thousand women from all fifty states in the United States, all of whom either had a family history of breast or ovarian cancer or a relative with a genetic mutation associated with increased cancer risk.
It is, so far, the first study to examine the impact of a number of different pre-tests and post-test counseling in women with a high risk of developing cancer.
According to the findings of the study, which were presented at the yearly meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, genetic tests can be accessed without visiting a hospital testing and the meetings prior to the test as well as after the test can be skipped in order to decrease mental distress in the women.
The director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at UW School of Medicine and the senior investigator of the trial, Elizabeth Swisher, further explained that the findings of the trial are more important than ever now due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has hindered many people from seeking medical attention and visiting hospitals.
She added that “There are many benefits to this new design, so I do see genetic testing for medical purposes headed in this direction, regardless of the pandemic.”
The trial started at the beginning of 2016 and ended in 2020. During the two year period, all participants underwent testing for nineteen identified genetic mutations that are linked to a higher risk of developing cancer using new spit tests created by Color Genomics.
In the results from the follow-ups of the trials, the researchers found that skipping counseling before and after taking the genetic spit test did not increase mental distress in the women.
In fact, participants were more likely to follow regular testing and guidelines without having a pre-test counseling session. Additionally, awareness through electronic methods such as educational videos on genetic testing was seen to be better and more effective than conventional counseling methods.
These findings show that making testing more accessible by the use of new spit tests is not only effective and can detect cancer in women at an early stage but help maintain cancer testing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Most of the participants were able to follow-through primarily because the new method of testing with saliva tests resolved the common issue of time, scheduling, and visits to the hospital, all of which were a requirement for conventional testing for cancer.
By using such tests, the preventative measures for cancers that are common in women such as ovarian cancer can be significantly improved, which, in turn, can help treat cancer at an early stage in the future.