Malaysian genetic test for the detection of breast cancer in Asian women

Over the years we have seen a wave of genetic testing arise. They offer a variety of services, from sharing your wealth stats, to ways to stay healthy based on your DNA, to genetic matching for love compatibility.

Cancer Research Malaysia has developed a new tool in the line of genetic testing, hopefully for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer.

Image Credit: Cancer Research Malaysia

Here’s why it’s needed

Called ARiCa (Asian Genetic Risk Calculator), the tool allows women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to determine their likelihood of inheriting a defective BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.

Did you know: BRCA (full name BReast CAncer Gene 1 or 2) are tumor suppressor genes that control and slow the growth of malignant (potentially cancerous) cells in the breast and ovaries.

Image Credit: Cancer Research Malaysia

When it comes to breast cancer, data show that one in 25 patients inherited a defective BRCA gene, which could have come from a descendant.

Take me for example. My mother is a breast cancer survivor, and knowing this information keeps me aware of these risks in my own genetic makeup. It is therefore up to me to take the necessary precautions to ensure that I am free from cancer, from an early age.

Genetic testing for a mutated BRCA gene is usually only offered to people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer or to close relatives with breast or ovarian cancer.

But age and family history are not the only ways to predict the likelihood of carrying a defective gene. This means that there is a population of women who are unaware of their potential for developing life-threatening disease. They would thus miss the opportunity to prevent it with the medical strategies available to them.

ARiCa is a genetic test developed to provide access to these groups of women. It was also designed specifically for Asian women, filling the gap in the market where pre-testing was aimed at European women.

Made in Asia, for Asian women

Image Credit: Cancer Research Malaysia

Such mutation sampling technologies have been around for quite some time. However, they are mostly developed by European countries, hence their target population. In fact, they are able to sample the presence of defective BRCA genes in European women with up to 90% accuracy. But using the same tool among Asian women offers only 22% accuracy.

On the other hand, ARiCa is supposed to be able to identify defective BRCA gene in Asian women with 71% accuracy. To test the viability of ARiCa, Cancer Research Malaysia collaborated with hospitals and medical research institutes in Malaysia and Singapore.

Their research looked at BRCA1 and BRCA2 in more than 8,000 breast cancer patients of Chinese, Malay and Indian descent from Malaysia and Singapore. The results were then used to develop a tool to provide women with results on their likelihood of carrying a defective BRCA gene.

With ARiCa, women can be empowered to make informed choices about their health. In turn, medical professionals can provide more specific treatment plans to their patients.

Image Credit: Cancer Research Malaysia

Having such tools to identify a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer can be beneficial for low- and middle-income countries where funding and infrastructure may not be able to support screening and/or treatment. breast cancer for every woman.

Hopefully with the increased awareness and precautionary methods in the prevention and management of breast cancer, this will directly translate into higher recovery rates and also lower mortality.

  • Learn more about ARiCa here and Cancer Research Malaysia here.
  • Check out other Malaysian health tech solutions we’ve featured here.

Featured Image Credit: Cancer Research Malaysia Team

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