Innovative new research into how testing for BRCA gene mutations should be offered to women after a cancer diagnosis has received funding from Breast Cancer Now and the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office.

Wednesday 26 April 2017      Research Scotland
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Women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have an increased risk of developing breast cancer

This is some of the first UK research on this issue. It is hoped that this study will help improve the information and support given to women with cancer who are offered genetic testing, leading to the delivery of more patient-centred treatment and testing.

Professor Mary Porteous from the University of Edinburgh is the lead applicant of the project grant with Dr Nina Hallowell from the University of Oxford as the co-applicant.

The two year project has been awarded over £73,000 to explore the experiences of patients and clinical staff at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

Women with breast or ovarian cancer who have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have different treatment options available to them so testing for BRCA mutations after a cancer diagnosis can help clinicians make treatment recommendations and improve chances of survival.

A positive result to BRCA mutation testing could be personally challenging as it may mean more intensive treatment and has implications for family members who may also have the mutation.

The project team will interview 15 women with breast cancer and 15 women with ovarian cancer about their experiences of being offered BRCA mutation testing after a cancer diagnosis. Research fellow, Dr Sarah Wright will also observe and interview 30 clinical staff including surgeons, cancer nurses and oncologists.

Dr Nina Hallowell said:

“This work will give us some of the first evidence about the emotional, ethical and logistical issues faced by patients and their healthcare teams when offering and delivering BRCA mutation testing to people shortly after their cancer diagnosis.

“By taking on this research we are seeking to identify the best way to support people through BRCA mutation testing and enhance future patients’ experiences. The ultimate goal is to ensure that people feel supported in making decisions that could ultimately improve their chances of surviving cancer.”

Mary Allison, Director for Scotland at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“We’re delighted to be funding this important research. The results of this study will help to inform healthcare professionals on how best to support women offered genetic testing, to provide more personalised, effective and targeted breast cancer treatment for patients.

“We believe that by 2050 everyone who develops breast cancer will live – and live well. Supporting healthcare professionals to unlock the tools that will help them to provide quick and effective treatment plans for women with breast cancer will bring us closer to this vision.”

This is the second breast cancer research project to be backed from the £450,000 partnership fund by the Scottish Government's Chief Scientists Office and Breast Cancer Now.

Professor Andrew Morris, Scottish Government Chief Scientist, said:

“We are delighted to be continuing our successful collaboration with Breast Cancer Now by supporting this innovative patient focussed research in Scotland.”

More information

Read more about how genetics can affect the risk of developing breast cancer

Find out about the research we are funding into BRCA gene mutations