The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) is making a significant effort in the battle against breast cancer by awarding a grant worth $1.5 million for the much-needed expansion of genetic screening services for the benefit of rural and underserved areas. The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center will be spearheading the expansion from the current 6 counties to a total of 22 in North Texas.
Linda Robinson, the Assistant Director of Clinical Genetics at UT Southwestern, said in a news release that only about 10% of all cases of breast cancer are known to have a hereditary cause. Making genetic testing accessible geographically and economically will go a long way in improving patient outcomes, especially because they increase the odds of getting an earlier diagnosis.
One of CPRIT and UT Southwestern’s main goals is to more effectively diagnose patients with Hereditary Breast-Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) and Lynch syndrome, which are two of the most common genetic cancer predisposition syndromes. Patients identified as carrying these mutations have a lifelong risk of 85% for breast, ovarian, colorectal, and uterine cancer.
The expansion will be made possible through the joint efforts of the Cancer Genetic Services for Rural and Underserved Populations in Texas, under the Genetics Department at the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center, together with Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dallas and the Moncrief Cancer Institute and JPS Health Network, Fort Worth. Incurred costs will be covered by the CPRIT grant.
“We now have the ability to connect with patients through telemedicine, a high tech communications system linking patients in outlying counties with our genetic specialists,” said Dr. Keith Argenbright, lead grant investigator, Director of the Moncrief Cancer Institute, Associate Professor at the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center and Department of Clinical Science, UT Southwestern. “With this new grant, we are building on the success of a similar program CPRIT funded three years ago, which brought state-of-the art genetic testing closer to home for our patients.”
The partnered institutions will be fully utilizing the new CPRIT grant for the project’s success over the next 3 years, supplementing the initial grant in 2011 that was worth $1.6 million and made the expansion of genetic testing in the counties of Tarrant, Dallas, Wise, Hood, Johnson, and Parker possible. The new grant will allow the inclusion of approximately 1,156,449 more Texans across an additional 13,480 square miles. This is particularly good news to the 43% of Texans that are either uninsured or underinsured, and to the estimated 72,280 state residents who carry these cancer-driving genetic mutations.