Somatic mismatch repair testing in evaluation of Lynch syndrome: The gap between preferred and current practices.

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Journal of genetic counseling


Lynch syndrome (LS) is a hereditary cancer predisposition syndrome primarily defined by increased risk for colorectal and uterine cancers. Individuals with germline pathogenic variants in the mismatch repair (MMR) genes (MLH1, MSH2/EPCAM, MSH6, and PMS2) are diagnosed with LS and recommended high-risk screening protocols to increase prevention and early detection of LS-related cancers. Tumor testing can help identify those at high risk for LS, but sometimes creates uncertainty with discordant screening and germline results, or unexplained mismatch repair deficiency (UMMRD). Somatic testing for MMR genes may help resolve UMMRD, potentially clarifying LS status and modifying cancer surveillance. However, guidelines for such testing are currently limited. This survey of cancer genetic counselors (GCs) aimed to examine current versus preferred ordering practices and interpretation of somatic MMR testing results in LS evaluation. Two hundred eligible GCs practicing in the United States and Canada were recruited from the National Society of Genetic Counselors. Participants answered questions regarding ordering practices, barriers to somatic MMR testing, theoretical scenarios, and desire for further guidelines. Statistical analysis was performed using chi-square, Fisher's exact, and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests, while themes were identified from free-text responses. Most respondents did not include somatic MMR testing in the LS work-up, despite three-quarters reporting they were 'somewhat comfortable' or 'extremely comfortable' with interpreting these results. Approximately half of participants indicated interest in ordering concurrent somatic MMR and germline testing for each of the four theoretical scenarios. Over three-quarters of individuals reported barriers to ordering somatic MMR testing, with cost and coordinating tissue samples most commonly cited. The frequently reported laboratory- and insurance-related barriers may contribute to the gap between preferred and current ordering practices for somatic MMR testing. Nearly all respondents endorsed additional guidelines for this testing, which could reduce barriers and inform screening recommendations for patients with UMMRD and their family members.

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