By sharing her BRCA status and news of her prophylactic surgeries with the world, Angelina Jolie Pitt has raised awareness about BRCA testing and hereditary cancer to new heights. Her op-eds have created the “the Angelina Effect,” a term describing how her celebrity has increased demand for these services. Still, many people who meet national expert guidelines do not receive genetic counseling or testing. Over the years, people have contacted FORCE to learn why they should consider having BRCA testing. We provide balanced information on the benefits and risks of genetic testing to help people make informed decisions. We also direct people to the resources, experts, and emotional support they need to make health care decisions with confidence.
Now people have another reason to know their BRCA status. In December 2014, the FDA approved a new treatment known as Lynparza for women with a BRCA mutation and ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer, and who have already received three or more rounds of chemotherapy treatments.
Although every woman diagnosed with invasive ovarian cancer meets expert guidelines for genetic counseling and testing, most have not had BRCA testing. With approval of Lynparza, it’s more important than ever that women with ovarian cancer have access to this critical genetic information. With increased media attention of BRCA, more women who are newly-diagnosed with ovarian cancer are hearing about BRCA testing. But, for several reasons, it’s equally important to update women who were previously diagnosed–even years ago—with ovarian cancer about BRCA testing and Lynparza:
- Health care providers may assume these women were already offered testing when they were newly-diagnosed; however, four or five years ago, fewer health care providers were referring ovarian cancer survivors for genetic counseling and testing.
- Women with ovarian cancer who tested negative for BRCA several years ago may not be offered additional genetic services, even though they might have a mutation that can now be identified with modern, more sensitive testing methods.
- Women who previously declined BRCA testing because they didn’t feel there were medical benefits of knowing whether or not they carried a mutation may now decide to undergo testing based on the availability of a new treatment option.
- Because Lynparza is approved for women who have already undergone several cycles of treatment, the information is particularly relevant to women who were diagnosed two or more years ago.
Lynparza is the only PARP inhibitor approved by the FDA. The labeled indication is for treating ovarian, primary peritoneal, and fallopian tube cancer in women with an inherited BRCA mutation who have previously had three or more cycles of chemotherapy. The FDA has also approved a companion diagnostic test for Lynparza to identify women with an inherited BRCA. FORCE worked with genetics, regulatory, and policy experts to compile an FAQ page to clarify some of the confusion around the companion diagnostic test for Lynparza.
Approval of Lynparza is an important step forward in treating hereditary cancers, and it is reassuring to know that other targeted agents for people with BRCA mutations are also being developed. People with cancer who do not meet eligibility criteria for Lynparza can explore other options with their oncologist including participation in clinical trials that are studying PARP inhibitors or other new targeted therapies for treating hereditary cancers, including pancreatic, ovarian, breast, and prostate cancers. FORCE’s clinical trial search tool allows you to find clinical trials by location, stage of disease, and type of cancer. People with advanced cancer for which there are no standard treatments and who do not qualify for any clinical trials, can talk with their oncologist about off-label access to Lynparza.
Tags: brca, BRCA 1, BRCA 2, brca research, brca testing, BRCA1, BRCA2, facing our risk, FDA, gene testing, HBOC, hereditary cancer, hereditary cancer research, ovarian cancer, survivor