Commentary: Multigene Testing Assessment Is Critical

In an accompanying invited commentary, Elizabeth Swisher, MD, of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, WA, applauded the study.2

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Dr. Swisher noted that thousands of women and their physicians are already using multigene panels every day. Because of this, she wrote, “it is therefore critical that we assess the clinical utility of such testing.”

Dr. Swisher went on to say that “by identifying the cause of ovarian cancer in the family, at-risk relatives can be tested, eliminating unnecessary interventions in women without the familial risk,” and observed that in some cases, “nontesting is more harmful than multigene testing.”

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Dr. Swisher and Dr. Ellisen agreed that more assessments of multigene panels are necessary.

“It is important to note that our study does not advocate for broad-based testing of patients without a personal or family cancer history,” said Dr. Ellisen. “These genetic tests need to be interpreted in the context of this history, and interpreting such tests in the absence of a relevant history could lead to inaccurate recommendations and unnecessary measures being taken.”


  1. Desmond A, Kurian A, Gabree M, et al. Clinical actionability of multigene panel testing for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer risk assessment. JAMA Oncol. [published online ahead of print August 13, 2015]. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.2690.
  2. Swisher M. Usefulness of multigene testing: catching the train that’s left the station. JAMA Oncol. [published online ahead of print August 13, 2015]. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.2699.