Clinical Actionability of Multigene Panel Testing for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Assessment

JAMA Oncol. 2015 Oct;1(7):943-51. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.2690.


Importance: The practice of genetic testing for hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer (HBOC) is rapidly evolving owing to the recent introduction of multigene panels. While these tests may identify 40% to 50% more individuals with hereditary cancer gene mutations than does testing for BRCA1/2 alone, whether finding such mutations will alter clinical management is unknown.

Objective: To define the potential clinical effect of multigene panel testing for HBOC in a clinically representative cohort.

Design, setting, and participants: Observational study of patients seen between 2001 and 2014 in 3 large academic medical centers. We prospectively enrolled 1046 individuals who were appropriate candidates for HBOC evaluation and who lacked BRCA1/2 mutations.

Interventions: We carried out multigene panel testing on all participants, then determined the clinical actionability, if any, of finding non-BRCA1/2 mutations in these and additional comparable individuals.

Main outcomes and measures: We evaluated the likelihood of (1) a posttest management change and (2) an indication for additional familial testing, considering gene-specific consensus management guidelines, gene-associated cancer risks, and personal and family history.

Results: Among 1046 study participants, 40 BRCA1/2-negative patients (3.8%; 95% CI, 2.8%-5.2%) harbored deleterious mutations, most commonly in moderate-risk breast and ovarian cancer genes (CHEK2, ATM, and PALB2) and Lynch syndrome genes. Among these and an additional 23 mutation-positive individuals enrolled from our clinics, most of the mutations (92%) were consistent with the spectrum of cancer(s) observed in the patient or family, suggesting that these results are clinically significant. Among all 63 mutation-positive patients, additional disease-specific screening and/or prevention measures beyond those based on personal and family history alone would be considered for most (33 [52%] of 63; 95% CI, 40.3%-64.2%). Furthermore, additional familial testing would be considered for those with first-degree relatives (42 [72%] of 58; 95% CI, 59.8%-82.2%) based on potential management changes for mutation-positive relatives. This clinical effect was not restricted to a few of the tested genes because most identified genes could change clinical management for some patients.

Conclusions and relevance: In a clinically representative cohort, multigene panel testing for HBOC risk assessment yielded findings likely to change clinical management for substantially more patients than does BRCA1/2 testing alone. Multigene testing in this setting is likely to alter near-term cancer risk assessment and management recommendations for mutation-affected individuals across a broad spectrum of cancer predisposition genes.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • BRCA1 Protein / genetics
  • BRCA2 Protein / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Boston
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • California
  • DNA Mutational Analysis*
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Genetic Counseling
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genetic Testing / methods*
  • Heredity
  • Humans
  • Mutation*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pedigree
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors


  • BRCA1 Protein
  • BRCA1 protein, human
  • BRCA2 Protein
  • BRCA2 protein, human
  • Biomarkers, Tumor