Genetic Testing For Cancer Presents Complex Challenges

HARD NUMBERS: Penn's Fergus Couch evaluated the "actual prevelance of BRCA1 mutations" among 263 women with a family history of the disease. In the early days of the Human Genome Project, attention focused on rare disorders that strictly follow Mendel's laws of inheritance, recurring in predictable patterns within families. With many of these genes identified and mapped as the finish line nears, emphasis has shifted to genes that cause more common ills, particularly cancers, and the public has

Ricki Lewis
Oct 12, 1997

Fergus Couch
HARD NUMBERS: Penn's Fergus Couch evaluated the "actual prevelance of BRCA1 mutations" among 263 women with a family history of the disease.
In the early days of the Human Genome Project, attention focused on rare disorders that strictly follow Mendel's laws of inheritance, recurring in predictable patterns within families. With many of these genes identified and mapped as the finish line nears, emphasis has shifted to genes that cause more common ills, particularly cancers, and the public has become more aware of genetic testing. These conditions are transmitted in more complex ways; the complications are creating problems for technology transfer from the research lab to the clinic.


EDUCATION NEEDED: Johns Hopkins' Gloria Petersen found that many health care professionals misinterpret the results of genetic tests.
The unexpected complexity of genetic testing technology is threatening its acceptance by consumers. "It is a very difficult situation. New discoveries attract publicity, and the...

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