Genetic Testing in Prostate Cancer
Genetic testing identifies gene mutations that can impact patients and their families. Two different types of genetic tests in prostate cancer are germline and somatic. These are clinical tests that are used by doctors to learn more about a patient’s specific prostate cancer and to help develop treatment plans. Understanding the differences between these tests is important to decide which one is right for you.
Approximately 10% of prostate cancers are thought to be caused by an inherited gene mutation. Inherited genetic mutations can be found in the BRCA1, BRCA2, and HOBX13 genes, among others. If prostate cancer was caused by an inherited gene mutation it is defined as hereditary cancer. People with a hereditary cancer mutation in their family are more likely to have relatives with the same type or other related types of cancer. Hereditary prostate cancer is generally more aggressive than non-hereditary cancer types, which means that early detection can be lifesaving. Having hereditary cancer can also mean a higher risk for developing more than one cancer and those cancers often occur at an earlier age. However, it is important to know that while prostate cancer can run in some families, most prostate cancers occur in men without a family history of it.
Genetic testing for an inherited mutation should be considered if you have a history of cancer in your family. Genetic testing is done with a simple blood or saliva test. If you have metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC), tests like those from Myriad Genetics, Color, Invitae, and Ambry can provide beneficial information. Certain tests like BRACAnalysis CDX® can determine if you qualify for new FDA-approved targeted therapies. These therapies may maintain your quality of life and give you more time. By identifying if you have a germline BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation, a genetic test quickly and accurately establishes whether or not you’re an appropriate candidate for PARP inhibitors, a type of targeted therapy.
Germline testing also provides family members with valuable information regarding their cancer risks. Family members of men with hereditary cancer have a 50% chance of having the same genetic mutation. Germline testing can help family members know if they should be also be tested or take measures to reduce their risk of developing cancer. All men with prostate cancer should consider genetic testing. Download a germline patient education guide here and learn more about germline testing here.
In addition to your doctor, a genetic counselor can discuss your family risk, the pros and cons of genetic testing, help explain the results, and help determine next steps. The National Society of Genetic Counselors offers a directory to help you find a genetic counselor in your area, or available via telehealth.
Clinical vs. Recreational Genetic Testing
When it comes to genetic testing, there are a lot of choices and deciding if testing is right for you can be confusing. Certain types of genetic testing can be great tools for understanding how your DNA can impact healthcare decisions. Others can tell you interesting traits about your genetic makeup like your eye color, hair texture, and more.
To reduce any confusion, here is a helpful comparison to show the difference between clinical and recreational genetic tests.
Genetic Testing Video Resources:
See how germline testing impacted Ed Hoppe and his family in this video:
Dr. Heather Cheng and Dr. Channing Paller talk about the PROMISE Registry — a research study led by physicians from Johns Hopkins University and University of Washington. This observational study enables men with prostate cancer to find out if they have genetic factors that may influence their disease and treatment options. Learn more at ProstateCancerPROMISE.org.
New, promising treatment options now exist for those with an inherited DNA alteration. Learn how genetic testing can help you be more proactive about your health:
While genetic testing can seem complicated and confusing at first, this video explains how you can unlock your genetic information with just a few easy steps:
To learn more about the Prolaris germline test, watch this video.
To learn more about genetic testing, watch the below interviews, the first between ZERO’s VP of Patient Programs & Education, Shelby Moneer, and Dr. Todd Cohen, VP of Medical Affairs/Medical Director of Urology – Myriad Genetics; and the second between ZERO’s VP of Patient Programs & Education, Shelby Moneer, and Rob Finch, Director of Urology Medical Affairs at Myriad Genetics.