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New computer-based tools will help make best use of genetic breast cancer tests

A new Federal project, funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), will lead efforts to develop, implement, and evaluate four computer-based decision-support tools that will help clinicians and patients better use genetic tests to evaluate and treat breast cancer. The first pair of tools will assess whether a woman with a family history of cancer should be tested for BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

Knowing whether a woman has inherited these gene mutations may help determine her chances of developing certain kinds of cancer, especially breast cancer. The second pair of tools, for women already diagnosed with breast cancer, will help determine which patients are appropriate for a Gene Expression Profiling (GEP) test. GEP test results can help evaluate which patients are at a high risk of cancer recurrence and therefore are good candidates for chemotherapy, in addition to other appropriate treatments.

The $1 million project will be completed by RTI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute in Research Triangle Park, NC. It is expected to take about 16 months. Development of these tools will support AHRQ's work of translating research into clinical practice in the areas of genetic tests, health information technology, and patient care. The new project to create decision-support tools is funded through AHRQ's DEcIDE (Developing Evidence to Inform Decisions about Effectiveness) research network, part of the Effective Health Care Program.

The Effective Health Care Program sponsors the development of new scientific knowledge through studies on the outcomes of health care technologies and services. For more information about AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program, the DEcIDE Network, and to learn more about the project to create gene-based clinical decision-support tools for breast cancer patients, visit the Effective Health Care Web site at http://effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov.

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