Experiences of patients seeking to participate in variant of uncertain significance reclassification research

Sukh Makhnoon, Lauren Thomas Garrett, Wylie Burke, Deborah J. Bowen, Brian H. Shirts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Patients’ understanding of a genetic variant of unknown clinical significance (VUS) is likely to influence beliefs about risk implications, consequent medical decisions, and other actions such as involvement in research. We interviewed 26 self-selected participants with a clinically identified VUS before they enrolled into a VUS reclassification study. Semi-structured interviews addressed topics including motivation to get genetic test, experience with the VUS result, affective responses to receiving VUS, and perceived effect of VUS and reclassification on medical care. We found that family and personal history of disease were the most prevalent motivators for getting a genetic test. Participants demonstrated mixed understanding of VUS. Most expressed negative effect on learning of their VUS result and uncertainty about its impact on clinical management. Most expected reclassification efforts to benefit their family members but not themselves. Some expressed distrust of their providers following a VUS result. Participation in the VUS reclassification study appeared to be motivated by four factors for patients with VUS—negative effect about VUS, uncertainty about its impact on clinical management, concern for family members’ well-being, and to advance science. Perhaps the direct acknowledgement and appraisal of uncertainty as a means of coping was missing in some pre-test counseling experienced by our participants and thus they were not psychologically prepared for atypical VUS results. The finding of VUS-induced provider distrust suggests a need for careful consideration of appropriate pre- and post-test counseling about VUS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-196
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Community Genetics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 4 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Affective response
  • Cancer
  • Oncology
  • Reclassification
  • Uncertainty
  • Understanding
  • VUS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Genetics(clinical)


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