The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) provide the healthcare community with current guidelines and best practices for the treatment and management of various types of cancer.
ASCO’s guidelines were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, and include Cassadie Moravek, associate director of clinical initiatives at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN), among the authors.
Moravek also provides a patient advocacy perspective for the NCCN guidelines, which are accessible online for healthcare providers.
“Both sets of guidelines include enhanced recommendations around genetic testing for pancreatic cancer patients,” Moravek said. “Genetic testing looks at germline, or hereditary, mutations in the bloodstream of patients.”
Recently published evidence suggested that germline, or hereditary, mutations occurred at a similar rate in patients with pancreatic cancer whether or not they have a family history of the disease. Following this unexpected finding, some experts are recommending that all patients undergo germline genetic testing, regardless of their family history of pancreatic or other cancer types.
According to Moravek, there are three advantages to pancreatic cancer patients undergoing germline testing:
- The patient can learn whether they are at an increased risk for additional cancer diagnoses in the future.
- If a mutation is found, their family members could consider genetic testing to determine whether they too are at risk.
- Genetic information about the patient and their tumor can help guide treatment decisions.
Moravek continued, “The new ASCO guidelines also include information for individuals who don’t have pancreatic cancer but are considered at risk due to family history.”
If someone has two or more first-degree relatives who have had pancreatic cancer, a first-degree relative who developed pancreatic cancer before the age of 50, or an inherited genetic syndrome associated with pancreatic cancer, they may have an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
PanCAN strongly recommends that these individuals consult with a genetic counselor to determine their risk and eligibility for a screening program.
The ASCO guidelines report concludes that, “Patients should be offered decision-making tools and urged to write down questions in between and in advance of appointments. Patients can be referred to resources that will extend the support and information clinicians are able to provide.
Moravek said, “I’m grateful to represent PanCAN and our pancreatic cancer patient community alongside medical and scientific leaders in the field to develop these updated guidelines. It’s important that pancreatic cancer patients and their healthcare teams are aware of up-to-date recommendations and best practices for the treatment and management of this disease.”