Gene Panels

A gene panel is a test that analyzes multiple genes at once for cancer-associated mutations. “Gene panels offer a middle ground between sequencing just a single gene like BRCA1 that we are certain is involved in disease risk, and sequencing every gene in the genome. It’s a focused approach that should allow us to capture the most relevant information,” said James Ford, MD of Stanford University.

New genetic testing technologies and the June 2013 Supreme Court ruling against gene patents have enabled many labs to offer gene panels with multiple genes instead of testing for BRCA1/2 separately. Though BRCA mutations are best known for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome, there are several other genes that have been found to be related to the development of cancer if the gene has mutated such as PALB2, CHEK2, and others.  Some of the gene mutations affect cancer risk more moderately, but still can be important when making medical management recommendations

An equally important but less known set of gene mutations cause Lynch Syndrome, which puts people at a higher risk for colon, endometrial, stomach, ovarian, and several other cancers than those without the syndrome. Current panel testing can evaluate for these and other, less common syndromes at the same time.

What are the BRCA1 and BRCA2 Genes?

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that everyone has that produce tumor suppressor proteins. These proteins help repair damaged DNA that can help avoid tumor growth. When either of these genes is mutated or altered, DNA damage may not be repaired properly. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.

Both men and women can be tested to see if there is a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA 2 genes to evaluate their risk of developing certain types of cancer including breast, ovarian, fallopian or peritoneal cancer in women and breast or prostate in men.