Cancer Screening and Prevention: EU Project to Develop Genetic Test
Harding Center for Risk Literacy to produce information material for doctors and patients
Imagine having one test that can tell any woman her individual risk of developing breast, cervical, womb, and ovarian cancer. Beginning in September 2015, a research consortium of European institutions will be working to develop a genetic test to do just that. The Harding Center for Risk Literacy is one of the participating institutions.
Cancer screening programs such as mammography are currently offered to all women in target age groups. However, it is well known that in women with a low risk of a certain cancer – for example, if there are no cases of breast cancer in the family—screening often leads to false-positive alarms and overdiagnosis. This can result in unnecessary overtreatment: surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy that do not improve the patient’s chances of survival, but can cause physical and psychological harm.
Against this background, the Europe-wide research project “Female cancer prediction using cervical omics to individualise screening and prevention” (FORECEE/4C) has taken on the task of developing a genetic test that will determine any woman’s risk of developing four cancers that are specific to women. The test will look for molecular changes in cells that predict a woman’s individual risk of developing breast, cervical, womb, and ovarian cancer. This would make it possible to identify women with a high risk of these cancers, and to spare women with a low risk from unnecessary screening and the anxiety of false alarms.
The role of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy will be to develop ways of communicating the complex medical information behind testing a woman’s individual cancer risk in a way that is accessible and comprehensible to both doctors and patients. Specifically, the potential benefits and risks of the test need to be presented in a transparent manner. To find out exactly what information women need and to gauge their general acceptance of the test, the researchers plan to conduct a survey of the target group. Their findings will inform the development of information material. “It’s important to provide the women concerned with clear and easily understandable information that spells out the pros and cons of taking the test or not. Only then can they really evaluate its potential benefits and harms and make an informed decision,“ says Odette Wegwarth, project leader and senior research scientist at the Harding Center for Risk Literacy.
The project, which launches in September 2015, will be funded by the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation HORIZON 2020. The research consortium comprises 14 scientific institutions from across Europe.
“Female cancer prediction using cervical omics to individualise screening and prevention”
The European research project aims to develop a genetic test that will make it possible to predict and prevent four women-specific cancers. The test, which will look for molecular changes in cells, has the potential to determine a woman’s individual risk of developing breast, cervical, womb, and ovarian cancer.
The European Partner Institutions
- Charles University, Prague – Czech Republik
- Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam - Netherlands
- Euram Ltd – United Kingdom
- European Institute of Oncology, University of Milan – Italy
- GATC Biotech AG – Germany
- Harding Center, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin – Germany
- Haukeland University Hospital – University of Bergen – Norway
- Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm – Sweden
- London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine – United Kingdom
- Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Munich – Germany
- Oncotyrol Center for Personalized Cancer Medicine – Austria
- University College London – project coordination – United Kingdom
- University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust – United Kingdom
- University of Cambridge – United Kingdom