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FORCE's eXaming the Relevance of Articles for You (XRAY) program looks behind the headlines of cancer news to help you understand what the research means for you. XRAY is a reliable source of hereditary cancer research-related news and information.
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Relevance: Medium

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Research Timeline: Post Approval

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Update : FDA approves at-home test kits for inherited cancer: how useful are they?

Most relevant for: People who are considering or have had direct-to-consumer testing through 23andMe

Genetic testing for health conditions (such as risk for cancer) typically requires a prescription from a doctor. Until recently, direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing has focused on tests to learn your ancestry and find of unknown branches of family trees. A laboratory called 23andMe that provides direct-to-consumer genetic testing has been given FDA approval to report results for 3 mutations found in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. The FDA statement provides details about this approval and warns people about the limitations of the 23andMe test. (03/19/18)

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FDA approves at-home test kits for inherited cancer: how useful are they?

Relevance: Medium-Low

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Strength of Science: Medium-Low

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Research Timeline: Animal Studies

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Study : Cancer “vaccine” injected directly into tumors works in mice

Most relevant for: People with advanced cancers

Immunotherapy is treatment that uses the immune system to fight cancer. Still in its infancy, it is a promising therapy that is changing how certain cancers are treated. A new study reports that tumors in lab mice were eliminated when they were injected with two immune system-enhancing agents. This new approach is called in situ (at the original site) vaccination because the injections are given directly into the tumors. It worked on several different types of mouse tumors, including lymphomas and breast tumors. This approach may be safer than conventional immunotherapy because it uses very low doses of the agents and it does not require tumors to have particular markers. (02/23/18)

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Cancer “vaccine” injected directly into tumors works in mice

Relevance: Medium-High

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Strength of Science: Medium-High

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Research Timeline: Post Approval

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Study : Genetic counseling by phone or face-to-face

Most relevant for: People referred to a genetic counselor or those considering genetic testing

Results presented at the 2017 American Psychological Association’s annual meeting showed genetic counseling by telephone is as “safe and effective” in long-term psychological and social outcomes compared to traditional in-person counseling for women at risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. This presentation is an update on research published in 2014. (11/29/17)

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Genetic counseling by phone or face-to-face

Relevance: Medium

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Quality of Writing: Medium-High

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Article : Mixed reviews of at-home genetic testing

Most relevant for: People who are considering or have had direct-to-consumer testing

National guidelines recommend that patients meet with a genetics expert before undergoing genetic testing for cancer risk. Genetic counseling can help patients decide whether genetic testing is right for them and order the most appropriate test. Once test results are available, genetics experts also help patients understand their results. Over the last decade, the popularity of direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing, such as 23andMe has grown. Some genetic tests are marketed to consumers on television, in print advertisements, and on the Internet. These “at-home” genetic tests give people direct access to their genetic information without first involving a healthcare provider in the process. A recent report outlines the benefits and limitations of DTC genetic testing. (10/20/17)

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Mixed reviews of at-home genetic testing

Relevance: Medium-High

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Quality of Writing: High

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Article : Parents face challenges when deciding the best time to tell children that they may be at high risk for cancer

Most relevant for: Parents who have an inherited gene mutation

When certain types of cancers run in families, genetic testing can determine whether the cause is hereditary. Genetic testing can help family members understand their cancer risk and make medical decisions to stay healthy. A test result can provide significant insight, but it also creates challenges for parents, because gene mutations that cause hereditary cancers can be passed from mothers and fathers to sons and daughters. People with these mutations must make difficult decisions about when to tell their children that they too may have inherited the mutation. (8/22/2017)

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Parents face challenges when deciding the best time to tell children that they may be at high risk for cancer

Relevance: High

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Quality of Writing: High

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Article : FDA busts myths of preventing and treating cancer by eating apricot kernels, herbs, and other ingredients

Most relevant for: People diagnosed with or concerned about their risk for cancer

Maggie Fox (NBC News) writes about a new FDA report that warns of 14 "fraudulent” cancer products claiming to either cure or treat cancer (1). The companies that sell these products claim that many of them also prevent cancer, but are they safe or effective? (6/26/17)

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FDA busts myths of preventing and treating cancer by eating apricot kernels, herbs, and other ingredients

Relevance: High

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Strength of Science: Medium-High

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Research Timeline: Post Approval

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Study : Does scalp cooling help prevent hair loss after chemotherapy?

Most relevant for: Patient undergoing chemotherapy

Hair loss is one of the most recognized and distressing side effects of some chemotherapies. Two studies looked at the use of scalp cooling therapy to help reduce hair loss after chemotherapy for early-stage breast cancer. (5/15/17) 

Update: Based on data from clinical trials, the FDA approved Dignicap scalp cooling device for treatment in patients diagnosed with solid tumors who are receiving chemotherapy. 

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Does scalp cooling help prevent hair loss after chemotherapy?

Relevance: Medium

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Strength of Science: Medium-Low

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Study : Angelina Jolie spoke out on BRCA testing: Did genetic testing increase?

Most relevant for: People interested in genetic testing for an inherited mutation

Angelina Jolie published an editorial in the New York Times in 2013 about her choice to have a double mastectomy after finding out she was positive for a BRCA1 mutation. Researchers from a recent study claim that her celebrity endorsement of BRCA testing may have missed its target audience (previvors), due to the increase in BRCA testing following publication of the editorial but a decrease in the number of mastectomies performed. However, the study failed to take into account that many women without breast cancer do not pursue mastectomy in the months following genetic testing. (1/4/17)

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Angelina Jolie spoke out on BRCA testing: Did genetic testing increase?

Relevance: Medium-High

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Strength of Science: Medium

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Research Timeline: Post Approval

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Study : Rare mutations in PALB2, CHEK2, and ATM: how much do they increase cancer risk?

Most relevant for: People who tested positive for one of the rare variants in CHEK2, ATM or PALB2 that are covered in this study

As multi-gene panel tests become more common, people are discovering they have mutations in genes that are not understood as well as BRCA. This can make it difficult to give patients accurate assessments of their cancer risk. For example, mutations in PALB2, CHEK2, and ATM are rare, but some specific changes in these genes are even less common. The goal of this international collaboration was to better understand the cancer risks of some very rare PALB2, CHEK2, and ATM mutations. The findings are relevant only to the specific mutations covered in this paper and do not apply to all people with mutations in PALB2, CHEK2, or ATM. (9/27/16)

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Rare mutations in PALB2, CHEK2, and ATM: how much do they increase cancer risk?

Relevance: Medium

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Quality of Writing: High

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Article : A cancer patient’s tumor is genetically profiled—how does that info help treatment?

Most relevant for: People diagnosed with advanced cancer

Jessica Wapner's Scientific American article explores the difficulties of making the vast amount of information acquired from tumor gene tests useful to patients and physicians. (9/20/16). Update: THIS INFORMATION HAS BEEN UPDATED. In late 2017, the FDA approved two separate tumor profiling tests to help guide treatment choices. The FoundationOne CDx (F1CDx) genomic test has been approved to test for 15 different targeted therapies used to treat five types of cancer, including ovarian, colorectal, lung, breast and melanoma. The FDA also approved the MSK-IMPACT and developed for use by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) to scan tumor samples for 468 different cancer-associated mutations or alterations.

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A cancer patient’s tumor is genetically profiled—how does that info help treatment?

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