Preferences for return of germline genome sequencing results for cancer patients and their genetic relatives in a research setting


Germline genome sequencing (GS) holds great promise for cancer prevention by identifying cancer risk and guiding prevention strategies, however research evidence is mixed regarding patient preferences for receiving GS results. The aim of this study was to discern preferences for return of results by cancer patients who have actually undergone GS. We conducted a mixed methods study with a cohort of cancer probands (n = 335) and their genetic relatives (n = 199) undergoing GS in a research setting. Both groups completed surveys when giving consent. A subset of participants (n = 40) completed semi-structured interviews. A significantly higher percentage of probands thought people would like to be informed about genetic conditions for which there is prevention or treatment that can change cancer risk compared to conditions for which there is no prevention or treatment (93% [311] versus 65% [216]; p < 0.001). Similar results were obtained for relatives (91% [180] versus 61% [121]; p < 0.001). Themes identified in the analysis of interviews were: (1) Recognised benefits of GS, (2) Balancing benefits with risks, (3) Uncertain results are perceived as unhelpful and (4) Competing obligations. While utility was an important discriminator in what was seen as valuable for this cohort, there was a variety of responses. In view of varied participant preferences regarding return of results, it is important to ensure patient understanding of test validity and identify individual choices at the time of consent to GS. The nature and value of the information, and a contextual understanding of researcher obligations should guide result return.


Cancer genetics, Human behaviour

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