New tool for more accurate detection of breast cancer in Asian women

March 7, 2022
New tool for more accurate detection of breast cancer in Asian womenNew tool for more accurate detection of breast cancer in Asian women

Cancer Research Malaysia (CRM) have developed a diagnostic tool especially for Asian women that better identifies their likelihood of inheriting BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene faults. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are tumour suppressor genes that help keep breast, ovarian, and other types of cells from growing and dividing too rapidly or in an uncontrolled way.

As most mutation prediction tools are less accurate for women of Asian descent in favour of European women, the Asian Genetic Risk Calculator or ARiCa was developed by CRM – thereby allowing more Asian women patients to be aware of their genetic risk status and pursue life-saving treatments and/or prevention strategies.

In conjunction with International Women’s Day, this year themed “Break The Bias,” CRM’s Chief Scientific Officer, Professor Datin Paduka Dr. Teo Soo Hwang, OBE, explains about ARICa and its relevance to Asian women: “We estimate that each year, nearly 4,000 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients in Malaysia would need genetic counselling and testing, but they often don’t consider a genetic test because most assume that they are unlikely to have inherited a faulty gene.

“With ARiCa, we can now give each woman their individual likelihood of being a BRCA carrier so that they can be empowered to make informed choices about their health and healthcare practitioners can provide more accurate treatment plans for their patients.”

[CRM collaborated with international institutions from the UK, Malaysia, and Singapore to analyse BRCA1 and BRCA2 in more than 8,000 breast cancer patients, including those of Malay, Chinese, and Indian heritage. The results were then used to develop a tool to provide women with an individual likelihood of being a faulty BRCA carrier.]

Breast cancer data (Malaysia) shows that 1 in 25 patients inherit a faulty BRCA gene. Prior to this research, breast cancer patients are only offered a test if they were diagnosed at a young age or have close relatives with breast or ovarian cancer. But because age and family history alone does not accurately predict the likelihood of carrying a faulty gene, many gene carriers are not offered the genetic test.

A patient with a BRCA mutation may alter their surgical management, said Dato’ Dr. Yip Cheng Har, Consultant Breast Surgeon at Subang Jaya Medical Centre, Malaysia. “In addition to changing the available surgical options, medical practitioners can also prescribe the patient with a new class of drugs called PARP inhibitors that targets the BRCA mutation to improve survival in carriers with early and late stages of breast cancer […] ARiCa can help us to identify patients that need to be referred for genetic counselling and testing.”

“Currently, we refer patients for genetic counselling and testing based on age and family history of cancer due to the lower median age of cancer diagnosis among Asian women. These exacerbate the challenges in access to genetic testing even in developed Asian countries like Singapore,” added Associate Professor Mikael Hartman, Senior Consultant at the National University Hospital. “A population-specific tool like ARiCa that enables more accurate identification of mutation carriers can help to meet the increased demand for cancer genetics services.”


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