“As the practice of genetically profiling patient tumors for clinical treatment decision making becomes more commonplace, a recent study from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center suggests that profiling normal DNA also provides an important opportunity to identify inherited mutations that could be critical for patients and their families.
“Preliminary findings from this ongoing study will be presented by Funda Meric-Bernstam, M.D., professor and chair, Investigational Cancer Therapeutics, on June 1 at the American Society for Clinical Oncology 2015 Annual Meeting in Chicago.
“The MD Anderson research team sequenced tumor and normal DNA from patients with advanced cancer, with the goal of sharing results with patients to better educate them going forward. Sequencing normal tissue is not routinely done in the research environment, but comparing tumor versus normal DNA can distinguish between germline, or inherited, mutations and those found only in the tumor.”
“Cancer patients look to oncology specialists for highly skilled treatment. Yet others may affect their disease experiences – their partners, wives, husbands or close family members.
“In recent years, there has been growing recognition that close relationships are important to fostering good cancer care. Treating the whole patient transcends beyond physical medicine to address cancer’s psychosocial impact as well, including stresses on partnerships and families.
“Psychologist Sharon L. Manne, associate director for population science at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, studies cancer’s effect on relationships, especially couples. Her work explores emotional and psychological needs, ways to increase communication and methods of strengthening intimacy between partners.
” ‘Most people don’t expect to ever be diagnosed with cancer. Coping is important,’ Manne says. In her work, she has found that developing more relationship support and intimacy reduces stress and facilitates well-being. ‘As a research center, our goal is to improve quality of life for patients and families.’ “
The gist: Genetic testing can help predict a person’s risk of getting melanoma. A recent study found that people who receive genetic testing for melanoma risk might be prompted to discuss melanoma risk and prevention with more family members.
“Positive genetic risk information about melanoma may help to prompt people to discuss melanoma risk with a wider variety of family members, according to a study published in JAMA that examined the effects of hypothetical genetic testing. Interestingly, even people who received negative genetic testing results were still affected by the results.
“ ‘This study shows us that individuals are sensitive to receiving genetic risk information, regardless of the results, and will likely increase their willingness to discuss melanoma risk and prevention strategies with their families after receiving this type of feedback,’ said study author Mallorie Gordon, MA, of the department of psychology, New School for Social Research, New York, New York.
“ ‘This study indicates that providing genetic risk information to patients and their families may not only improve their understanding of their particular skin health needs—specifically telling patients whether their melanoma risk is related to heredity or sun exposure, as defined by the feedback type of the genetic test—but also improve the risk communication that exists around melanoma and its prevention overall,’ she told Cancer Network.”
“A cancer diagnosis affects the whole family, and a significant number of children of cancer patients may be at risk for emotional and behavioral problems. A new analysis published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, suggests that family dysfunction may increase a child’s risk of experiencing such problems after learning of a parent’s illness.
“Approximately 21% of all newly diagnosed cancer patients are between the ages of 25 and 54 years, and many may have dependent children living with them at home. While most children and adolescents cope well with a parent’s illness, some can become highly distressed or develop psychosocial issues. Therefore, it is important to know which factors may affect a children’s adjustment to a parent’s cancer diagnosis and to develop specific screening tools and healthcare programs for children who may go on to experience problems.”
Update: We are deeply saddened to report that Francesca passed away on October 31, 2014. Her warmth, intelligence, and bravery will continue to inspire us. It is a privilege to share her story and keep her memory alive.
In 2011, Francesca knew something was wrong. Her stomach hurt and was upset after eating, and she just didn’t feel right. She had also lost a lot of weight, but thought that was normal, considering her life at the time. “I was working fulltime and had just stopped breastfeeding,” she explains. So when she went in for a checkup, she expected to hear it was a stomach problem. Continue reading…