BACKGROUND: Genomic sequencing in cancer (both tumour and germline), and development of therapies targeted to tumour genetic status, hold great promise for improvement of patient outcomes. However, the imminent introduction of genomics into clinical practice calls for better understanding of how patients value, experience, and cope with this novel technology and its often complex results. Here we describe a protocol for a novel mixed-methods, prospective study (PiGeOn) that aims to examine patients' psychosocial, cognitive, affective and behavioural responses to tumour genomic profiling and to integrate a parallel critical ethical analysis of returning results.
METHODS: This is a cohort sub-study of a parent tumour genomic profiling programme enrolling patients with advanced cancer. One thousand patients will be recruited for the parent study in Sydney, Australia from 2016 to 2019. They will be asked to complete surveys at baseline, three, and five months. Primary outcomes are: knowledge, preferences, attitudes and values. A purposively sampled subset of patients will be asked to participate in three semi-structured interviews (at each time point) to provide deeper data interpretation. Relevant ethical themes will be critically analysed to iteratively develop or refine normative ethical concepts or frameworks currently used in the return of genetic information.
DISCUSSION: This will be the first Australian study to collect longitudinal data on cancer patients' experience of tumour genomic profiling. Findings will be used to inform ongoing ethical debates on issues such as how to effectively obtain informed consent for genomic profiling return results, distinguish between research and clinical practice and manage patient expectations. The combination of quantitative and qualitative methods will provide comprehensive and critical data on how patients cope with 'actionable' and 'non-actionable' results. This information is needed to ensure that when tumour genomic profiling becomes part of routine clinical care, ethical considerations are embedded, and patients are adequately prepared and supported during and after receiving results.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: Not required for this sub-study, parent trial registration ACTRN12616000908437 .