UCLA Health launches telehealth genitourinary cancer genetics program

Brian Shuch, MD
Brian Shuch, MD

In an effort to help identify people who have inherited genes for genitourinary cancers, UCLA Health and the Department of Urology at UCLA have created a new telehealth cancer genetics program that will provide rapid access to high-quality genetic counseling and testing. According the National Institutes of Health, five to 10 percent of cancers are hereditary.

The program is one of the project winners of the 2019 UCLA Health Innovation Challenge, which awarded this innovative effort $10,000 for telehealth initiatives. It officially launches June 29th, 2020, and will focus on diagnosing hereditary kidney, bladder, testicular and prostate cancers. The program hopes to complement and expand on the work providers at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have already developed.

Currently, there is a national shortage of genetic counselors, potentially impacting clinical outcomes of those who are diagnosed. In partnership with Genome Medical, this service will augment current efforts of UCLA genetic counselors to keep up with the rapid increase in new criteria for genetic testing.

Genetic risk assessment is complex, and inappropriate counseling, testing, and interpretation of results can have significant consequences. "By offering telehealth genetic counseling, genetic risk assessment can be performed efficiently and accurately," says program-lead Brian Shuch, MD, an associate professor of urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a researcher at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. "We hope this model can be adopted by other oncology providers within UCLA Health that are struggling to meet the increasing demand for genetic risk assessment."

The Department of Urology and Institute of Urologic Oncology programs are currently recognized as centers of excellence for the care of individuals with hereditary kidney cancer syndromes by patient advocacy groups such as Driven to Cure and the VHL Family Alliance.