In 2008, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) proposed a system for classifying sequence variants in highly penetrant breast and colon cancer susceptibility genes, linked to clinical actions. This system uses a multifactorial likelihood model to calculate the posterior probability that an altered DNA sequence is pathogenic. Variants between 5%-94.9% (class 3) are categorized as variants of uncertain significance (VUS). This interval is wide and might include variants with a substantial difference in pathogenicity at either end of the spectrum. We think that carriers of class 3 variants would benefit from a fine-tuning of this classification. Classification of VUS to a category with a defined clinical significance is very important because for carriers of a pathogenic mutation full surveillance and risk-reducing surgery can reduce cancer incidence. Counselees who are not carriers of a pathogenic mutation can be discharged from intensive follow-up and avoid unnecessary risk-reducing surgery. By means of examples, we show how, in selected cases, additional data can lead to reclassification of some variants to a different class with different recommendations for surveillance and therapy. To improve the clinical utility of this classification system, we suggest a pragmatic adaptation to clinical practice.
Keywords: cancer predisposition genes; clinical management; multifactorial likelihood model (MLM); variants of uncertain significance (VUS).
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