Disparities in Cancer Genetic Testing and Variants of Uncertain Significance in the Hispanic Population of South Texas

Stephanie Soewito, Rachel Wyatt, Emily Berenson, Natalie Poullard, Shawn Gessay, Lindsey Mette, Elena Marin, Kristin Shelby, Elise Alvarez, Byeong Yeob Choi, Clarissa Aviles, Anna Maria Pulido-Saldivar, Pamela M. Otto, Ismail Jatoi, Chethan Ramamurthy, Myron Ignatius, Virginia G. Kaklamani, Gail E. Tomlinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE:Racial and ethnic disparities have included a lack of access to both genetic testing and research, resulting in poor understanding of the genomic architecture in under-represented populations. The South Texas population is primarily of Hispanic background and has been largely devoid of genetic services. We extended access to this underserved population and uncovered genetic variants previously not observed, emphasizing the need to continually improve both genomic databases and clarification of variant significance to provide meaningful patient counseling.METHODS:This study consisted of a retrospective cohort review of patients seen through a cancer genetics education and service program across 24 counties in South Texas. In total, 1,595 individuals were identified as appropriate for cancer genetic counseling and 1,377 completed genetic testing.RESULTS:Eighty percent of those receiving genetic counseling self-identified as Hispanic, 16% as non-Hispanic White (NHW), 3% as African American, and 1% as other race/ethnicity. Of reported variants, 18.8% were pathogenic and 13.7% were reported as a variant of uncertain significance (VUS). VUS was reported in 17.2% of the Hispanic individuals compared with 9% NHW (P =.005).CONCLUSION:Individuals of Hispanic ethnicity were significantly more likely to harbor a VUS compared with NHW. The extended reach into our regional communities revealed a gap in the ability to accurately interpret genomic variation with implications for advising patients on screening, prevention, and management strategies. A higher percentage of VUS also emphasizes the challenge of continued follow-up amid existing barriers that led to disparities in access. As understanding of the variants develops, hopefully gaps in knowledge of the genomic landscape will be lessened with increased clarity to provide accurate cancer risk assessment and recommendations for implementing prevention initiatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E805-E813
JournalJCO Oncology Practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Health Policy
  • Oncology(nursing)


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