In recent years, with both the development of next-generation sequencing approaches and the Supreme Court decision invalidating gene patents, declining costs have contributed to the emergence of a new model of hereditary cancer genetic testing. Multigene panel testing (or multiplex testing) involves using next-generation sequencing technology to determine the sequence of multiple cancer-susceptibility genes. In addition to high-penetrance cancer-susceptibility genes, multigene panels frequently include genes that are less robustly associated with cancer predisposition. Scientific understanding about associations between many specific moderate-penetrance gene variants and cancer risks is incomplete. The emergence of multigene panel tests has created unique challenges that may have meaningful psychosocial implications. Contrasted with the serial testing process, wherein patients consider the personal and clinical implications of each evaluated gene, with multigene panel testing, patients provide broad consent to whichever genes are included in a particular panel and then, after the test, receive in-depth genetic counseling to clarify the distinct implications of their specific results. Consequently, patients undergoing multigene panel testing may have a less nuanced understanding of the test and its implications, and they may have fewer opportunities to self-select against the receipt of particular types of genetic-risk information. Evidence is conflicting regarding the emotional effects of this testing.
© 2019 The Hastings Center.