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June 15, 2003

American Society of Clinical Oncology Policy Statement Update: Genetic Testing for Cancer Susceptibility

Author: on behalf of Adopted on March 1, 2003, by the American Society Of Clinical OncologyAuthors Info & Affiliations
Publication: Journal of Clinical Oncology


Executive Summary: As the leading organization representing cancer specialists involved in patient care and clinical research, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) reaffirms its commitment to integrating cancer risk assessment and management, including molecular analysis of cancer predisposition genes, into the practice of oncology and preventive medicine. The primary goal of this effort is to foster expanded access to, and continued advances in, medical care provided to patients and families affected by hereditary cancer syndromes. The 1996 ASCO Statement on Genetic Testing for Cancer Susceptibility set forth specific recommendations relating to clinical practice, research needs, educational opportunities, requirement for informed consent, indications for genetic testing, regulation of laboratories, and protection from discrimination, as well as access to and reimbursement for cancer genetics services. In updating this Statement, ASCO endorses the following principles:
Indications for Genetic Testing:ASCO recommends that genetic testing be offered when 1) the individual has personal or family history features suggestive of a genetic cancer susceptibility condition, 2) the test can be adequately interpreted, and 3) the results will aid in diagnosis or influence the medical or surgical management of the patient or family members at hereditary risk of cancer. ASCO recommends that genetic testing only be done in the setting of pre- and post-test counseling, which should include discussion of possible risks and benefits of cancer early detection and prevention modalities.
Special Issues in Testing Children for Cancer Susceptibility:ASCO recommends that the decision to offer testing to potentially affected children should take into account the availability of evidence-based risk-reduction strategies and the probability of developing a malignancy during childhood. Where risk-reduction strategies are available or cancer predominantly develops in childhood, ASCO believes that the scope of parental authority encompasses the right to decide for or against testing. In the absence of increased risk of a childhood malignancy, ASCO recommends delaying genetic testing until an individual is of sufficient age to make an informed decision regarding such tests. As in other areas of pediatric care, the clinical cancer genetics professional should be an advocate for the best interests of the child.
Counseling About Medical Management After Testing:ASCO recommends that oncologists include in pre- and post-test counseling the discussion of possible risks and benefits of cancer early-detection and prevention modalities, some of which have presumed but unproven efficacy for individuals at increased hereditary risk of cancer.
Regulation of Genetic Testing:ASCO recommends strengthening regulatory oversight of laboratories that provide clinical cancer predisposition tests. These quality assurance mechanisms should include oversight of the reagents used in genetic testing, interlaboratory comparisons of reference samples, standardization of laboratory genetic test reports, and proficiency testing.
Protection From Insurance and Employment Discrimination:ASCO supports establishing a federal law to prohibit discrimination by health insurance providers and employers on the basis of an individual’s inherited susceptibility to cancer. Protections against genetic discrimination should apply to those with group coverage, those with individual health insurance policies, and the uninsured.
Coverage of Services:ASCO supports efforts to ensure that all individuals at significantly increased risk of hereditary cancer have access to appropriate genetic counseling, testing, screening, surveillance, and all related medical and surgical interventions, which should be covered without penalty by public and private third-party payers.
Confidentiality and Communication of Familial Risk:ASCO recommends that providers make concerted efforts to protect the confidentiality of genetic information. However, they should remind patients of the importance of communicating test results to family members, as part of pretest counseling and informed consent discussions. ASCO believes that the cancer care provider’s obligations (if any) to at-risk relatives are best fulfilled by communication of familial risk to the person undergoing testing, emphasizing the importance of sharing this information with family members so that they may also benefit.
Educational Opportunities in Genetics:ASCO is committed to continuing to provide educational opportunities for physicians and other health care providers regarding the methods of cancer risk assessment, the clinical characteristics of hereditary cancer susceptibility syndromes, and the range of issues related to genetic testing, including pre- and post-test genetic counseling, and risk management, so that health professionals may responsibly integrate the care of persons at increased genetic risk of cancer into the practice of clinical and preventive oncology.
Special Issues Relating to Genetic Research on Human Tissues:ASCO recommends that all researchers proposing to use or store human biologic specimens for genetic studies should consult either the responsible institutional review board (IRB) or a comparable body specifically constituted to assess human tissue research, to determine the requirements for protection specific to the study under consideration. This consultation should take place before the project is initiated. The determination of the need for informed consent or authorization in such studies should depend on whether the research involves tests for genetic markers of known clinical significance and whether research data will be linked to protected health information, as well as other considerations specific to the study proposed. Special attention should also be paid to 1) whether future research findings will be disclosed to the research participants, 2) whether future contact of participants is planned, 3) whether and how protected health information about the tissue donors will be stored, and what will happen to study specimens after the trial ends. In addition, ASCO affirms the right of people contributing tissue to a databank to rescind their permission, in accordance with federal privacy regulations.

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Published In

Journal of Clinical Oncology
Pages: 2397 - 2406
PubMed: 12692171


Published in print: June 15, 2003
Published online: September 21, 2016


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on behalf of Adopted on March 1, 2003, by the American Society Of Clinical Oncology


Address reprint requests to Suanna S. Bruinooge, American Society of Clinical Oncology, Cancer Policy and Clinical Affairs, 1900 Duke Street, Suite 200, Alexandria, VA, 22314; email: [email protected].

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Journal of Clinical Oncology 2003 21:12, 2397-2406

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