September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2022, roughly 19,880 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and 12,810 women will die from ovarian cancer.
Ovarian Cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women in the U.S., attributing more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. For years, there has been little progress in developing new treatments for women with BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer.
As a result, genetic testing at diagnosis was not routinely performed except for patients with a family history of cancer or young age of onset. In the last few years, however, targeted treatments have emerged, expanding treatment options, genetic testing, and tumor testing to a broader group of patients.
New information about how much BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations increase ovarian cancer risk is helping women make practical decisions about prevention. The results of clinical trials have demonstrated that women with ovarian cancers associated with BRCA mutations benefit from adding treatments with PARP inhibitors and have significantly changed how we approach genetic testing in relation to ovarian cancer.
Genetic testing has always been vital in identifying if a person or their family member(s) (cascade testing) have a genetic predisposition to cancers, so screening and preventive measures can be used.
At-home genetic testing, also known as direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing, is becoming more popular. People gather their own saliva or mouth swabs and send them in over the mail. They receive the test results via a secure website, mail, or phone.
A doctor would often request genetic testing for cancer risk to look for inherited genetic variations associated with a high to moderately elevated risk of cancer and are responsible for hereditary cancer susceptibility syndromes.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized a new class of medications known as PARP inhibitors for treating ovarian cancer during the last decade.
Three FDA-approved PARP inhibitors, as well as others under development, have given patients and physicians hope in their quest to cure ovarian cancer. Understanding what these medications are, how they function, and who benefits the most from using them can assist ovarian cancer patients in making treatment decisions.
With the emergence of targeted treatments like PARP inhibitors, which target cancers that rely on the PARP enzyme to repair damaged DNA, it becomes essential to determine a patient’s BRCA status at the very beginning of their diagnosis for treatment purposes.
BRCA status helps determine which patients should receive PARP inhibitor maintenance therapy after front-line chemotherapy and assist in treatment planning for those with recurrent disease, providing important prognostic, preventive, and therapeutic information. These individualized treatments reinforce the importance of knowing the BRCA status of all women with ovarian cancer.
Detecting ovarian cancer early could have an enormous impact on the cure rate. Only about 20% of ovarian cancers are found at an early stage; however, when ovarian cancer is detected early, through measures like genetic screening, about 94% of patients live longer than 5 years after diagnosis, meaning that early detection truly saves lives.
How can JScreen help?
Early ovarian cancer often presents no symptoms, so genetic screening tests are relied upon to detect the disease, which can be lifesaving for women at risk of having ovarian cancer.
Enter JScreen, a national public health initiative based out of Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Human Genetics, recently added CancerGEN to its testing portfolio, providing nationwide access to cancer screening that is more affordable and accessible than ever.
JScreen’sCancerGEN initiative offers at-home testing for more than 60 cancer susceptibility genes associated with hereditary risks for ovarian, breast, prostate, colorectal, skin, and many other hereditary cancers, providing thousands of women with a life-changing opportunity to screen for early detection of ovarian cancer.
With an understanding and awareness of your cancer risks and available options, individuals can work with their health-care providers on the next steps,” said Karen ArnovitzGrinzaid, MS, CGC, Assistant Professor of Human Genetics at Emory University School of Medicine, and JScreen’s Executive Director. “In cases such as Ovarian cancer, early testing with the CancerGEN program by JScreen provides convenient, affordable access to cancer genetic testing across the U.S. and is designed to help save lives through advanced diagnostic, making this a ‘Life Game-Changer,'” adds Grinzaid.
JScreen understands the importance of giving people a heads up if they have a hereditary risk for cancers like ovarian cancer.
This not-for-profit home education and genetic screening program started in 2013 with reproductive genetic testing called ReproGEN and now tests for risk for over 40 types of hereditary cancer with the addition of the CancerGEN test. “Making cancer genetic testing accessible is key,” said Jane Lowe Meisel, MD, Associate Professor of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Emory University School of Medicine and medical director for JScreen’s cancer program.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.