Feasibility, acceptability, and limited efficacy of health system-led familial risk notification: protocol for a mixed-methods evaluation

Pilot Feasibility Stud. 2022 Aug 9;8(1):174. doi: 10.1186/s40814-022-01142-9.


Background: Genetic testing for pathogenic variants associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer risk can improve cancer outcomes through enhanced preventive care in both people with known variants and their biologic relatives. Cascade screening-the process of case-finding in relatives by notifying and inviting them to consider testing-currently relies on the patient to notify their own at-risk relatives. However, many of these relatives never learn they might be at risk. We developed and implemented a new health system-led familial genetic risk notification process where the care team offers to contact at-risk relatives directly. This protocol describes a study to assess the feasibility, acceptability, and limited efficacy of this intervention.

Methods: This feasibility study will use a single-arm, nonrandomized, mixed-methods prospective design. We will enroll two groups of participants: probands and relatives of probands. Eligible probands are currently enrolled Kaiser Permanente Washington (KPWA) members with an upcoming appointment for pre-test genetic counseling for hereditary Lynch syndrome, breast, or ovarian cancer. Eligible relatives, who do not have to be KPWA members, are first-and second-degree relatives of probands. During the appointment with the proband, the genetic counselor will determine whether the proband is appropriate for genetic testing and if so, which relatives might benefit from cascade testing. The genetic counselor then will offer to contact any or all identified relatives directly to discuss genetic risk and testing. The primary outcome of this study is the feasibility of the implemented familial notification process, which we will measure using quantitative and qualitative data on intervention reach, intervention acceptability, and limited efficacy. Analyses will be primarily descriptive and exploratory, with the intent of preparing for a future, larger trial of direct contact interventions.

Discussion: Our findings will provide new, foundational evidence for the creation of US-based familial notification systems that directly address logistical and ethical challenges while prioritizing the preferences of patients and families.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Cancer risk; Genetic testing; Cascade testing; Lynch syndrome; Ovarian cancer.