Illustration of female reproductive system including uterus and ovaries to represent ovarian cancer
Credit: freshidea/Fotolia

Aiming to increase access to specialized genetic testing, the Inter-Organization Cancer Genetics Clinical Evidence Coalition (INTERACT) was launched today by Ambry Genetics and collaborators. The group’s mission is to increase access to genetic testing for people with, or at risk of, hereditary cancers. The coalition also seeks impact on medical professional and industry guidelines for such testing. 

This type of genetic data, INTERACT’s members say, can help patients and physicians improve management through increased surveillance, chemoprevention, targeted therapeutics, or risk-reducing surgical measures. By standing together they hope to accelerate the field.

“The group can show unity in the space and strives to advance testing access faster than any one member organization could alone,” Robert Pilarski, medical affairs director at Ambry Genetics, told Inside Precision Medicine

Ambry is a leader in this field, its CancerNext and CancerNext-Expanded assays use next-generation sequencing to identify genetic variants associated with hereditary cancer syndromes and inherited risk of cancer.

Founding laboratory members of INTERACT include organizer Ambry (a subsidiary of REALM IDx), Illumina, Myriad Genetics, and Quest Diagnostics. Volpara Health has also recently joined the coalition. Founding patient advocacy organization members include AliveAndKickn and FORCE. 

Management and treatment of people at risk because of hereditary cancer mutations is becoming increasingly important. 

Hereditary cancer genetic testing improves outcomes by identifying those most at risk and informing management strategies. For instance, patients who test positive for a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation have up to 87 percent lifetime risk for breast cancer, and up to 40 percent lifetime risk for ovarian cancer. Studies have shown that prophylactic mastectomy in BRCA1/2 mutation carriers results in up to a 97 percent reduction in the risk for contralateral breast cancer, while salpingo-oophorectomy reduced ovarian cancer incidence by 69–100 percent. It’s also a growing market, with BRCA testing estimated to be worth over $12M already.

Numerous other genes increase risk for various forms of cancer, including: MHL1, MSH2, and PMS2 which are associated with inherited colon cancer, and PTEN which is associated across a wide range of cancers.

Policy issues are also a growing focus for these companies and advocacy groups.  INTERACT, said  Pilarski, “Advocates for evidence-based changes to expert society positions and consensus guidelines for hereditary cancer risk assessment, genetic testing, and strategies for the prevention, early detection, and treatment of cancer. INTERACT submits formal requests to the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and other professional societies in support of guidelines based on emerging research. 

He added that, “The group also plans to develop and publish data demonstrating the clinical utility of genetic testing in oncology. Efforts to improve access to clinically indicated hereditary cancer risk assessment and testing through increasing awareness, develop improved service models that effectively address disparities, and foster appropriate payer policies that reflect professional group guidance for standards of clinical care are all in scope.”

The organization also aims to expand, Pilarski said, “INTERACT is a nascent group and certainly has plans to grow. Membership in INTERACT provides the opportunity to collaborate with other like-minded organizations working to increase appropriate access to testing.”

Also of Interest