Last updated on May 2019

Testing an Intelligent Tutoring System to Enhance Genetic Risk Assessment


Brief description of study

Participating in genetic cancer risk assessments (GCRA) for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer can inform treatment and risk management decisions and improve breast cancer outcomes. However, Latina and Black women underuse GCRA services, which may increase breast cancer disparities. This study will adapt and test the impact of an easily scalable novel Intelligent Tutoring System intervention to enhance GCRA use and improve psychosocial outcomes in a clinical sample of underserved Latina and Black women at-risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Detailed Study Description

Specific Aims BRCA1/2 mutations are the most commonly identified Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) mutations. Women with these mutations have a 50-80% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. Breast cancer survivors with a BRCA1/2 mutation are at higher risk of developing contralateral breast cancer than survivors without mutations. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommends referral for HBOC genetic cancer risk assessments (genetic counseling and consideration of genetic testing for a single gene or panel testing; GCRA) for women at high risk for carrying a mutation. Obtaining a positive test can inform treatment in newly diagnosed breast cancer patients and management in survivors and unaffected women. Unfortunately, Latina and Black women have lower GCRA use than non-Latina Whites. Reasons for lower GCRA use include access and psychosocial factors (e.g. low knowledge, medical mistrust, low health literacy, anticipated negative emotions). There have been few GCRA interventions in ethnic minorities; two recent efforts largely focused on improving access, awareness, and knowledge with mixed success of impacting uptake. Theoretically guided interventions that support GCRA uptake in underserved populations are needed. Intervention development is particularly important given the growing complexity of multiplex gene testing and the potential to identify founder mutations or large rearrangements that are more prevalent in specific ethnic groups.

Our preliminary data with at-risk Black and Latina women suggests that improving access does not necessarily translate into higher GCRA uptake and that providers face challenges in communicating HBOC risk information. Patients have difficulty understanding HBOC numerical risk information, especially populations with low health literacy. Additionally, many existing educational tools were not theoretically derived, tend to prioritize quantitative risk communication, and do not often consider emotional aspects, despite evidence that emotions influence risk perceptions. Fuzzy Trace Theory posits that rather than relying on factual knowledge and quantitative risk comprehension, people construct gist representations that are anchored on culture and capture the essential bottom-line meaning of risk information, including the emotional experience. Informed by Fuzzy Trace Theory, BRCA-gist is an innovative Intelligent Tutoring System intervention that uses avatars to emulate tailored one-to-one human tutoring and includes the bottom-line meaning of risk messages. The preliminary efficacy of BRCA-gist was established in an experimental laboratory setting with mostly non-Hispanic White college students. Adapting BRCA-gist for a clinical sample of ethnically/racially diverse women at increased risk of carrying a mutation is important. Thus, BRCA-gist constitutes a scalable, inexpensive intervention with promising translational applications and potential to reduce disparities.

The goal of this mixed methods study is to adapt BRCA-gist and test the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of this innovative intervention in a sample of Black and Latina women at risk of HBOC (based on NCCN criteria using personal and family history of cancer). Using the Learner Verification and Revision framework, in Aim 1 we will gather input from site staff and community providers (n=10) about adaptations for implementation in clinical settings and from at-risk Latina and Black women (n=20) about cultural adaptations. In Aim 2 we will test the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of the adapted BRCA-gist on uptake of GCRA services. We will recruit 100 women from community/clinic sites. After completing a brief baseline survey, we will randomize participants to BRCA-gist (n=50) or NCI Webpage arms (n=50). We elected to use the NCI Webpage as a comparison as it includes current GCRA recommendations for women at increased risk, the content overlaps with BRCA-gist, and the NCI serves as a reputable source. Women will complete an immediate post-intervention assessment and a research assistant (RA) will refer them to local free genetic counseling services. Our primary outcome is GCRA uptake at 3 months. Knowledge, gist comprehension, and intentions will be secondary outcomes. We aim to:

Aim 1: Adapt BRCA-gist. Providers and at-risk Black and Latina women will do the BRCA-gist intervention and provide feedback and suggestions to make cultural adaptations to implement BRCA-gist in community/clinic settings.

Aim 2: Test the feasibility, acceptability, and efficacy of BRCA-gist intervention in a two-arm RCT. H.2.1. We expect high overall retention (75%). H.2.2. We expect high satisfaction among women in the BRCA-gist arm (75%). H.2.3. Participants in the BRCA-gist arm (vs. NCI Web) will have a higher uptake of GCRA services 3 months after the intervention. H.2.4. Participants in the BRCA-gist arm (vs. NCI Webpage) will have a greater increase in knowledge, gist comprehension, and intentions to use GCRA. We will explore differences by ethnicity and health literacy and assess emotional reactions to risk information to inform future affective-tailored interventions.

This project builds on our interdisciplinary teams' expertise in using innovative technologies to improve risk communication, disparities, translational genomics, cancer control interventions, and emotions. If successful, BRCA-gist can be tested in larger samples and could easily be disseminated into clinical settings and community clinics that serve underserved populations at increased risk for cancer.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03511690

Find a site near you

Start Over

Nueva Vida

Alexandria, VA United States
  Connect »

Georgetown University

Washington, WA United States
  Connect »

Capital Breast Care Center

Washington, WA United States
  Connect »

Recruitment Status: Open


Brief Description Eligibility Contact Research Team


Receive Emails About New Clinical Trials!

Sign up for our FREE service to receive email notifications when clinical trials are posted in the medical category of interest to you.