Testing an Intelligent Tutoring System to Enhance Genetic Risk Assessment

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Georgetown University




Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer


Behavioral: BRCA-Gist

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


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 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.

Full 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 a 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 50 women nationally. After completing a brief baseline survey, we will randomize participants to an immediate intervention arm or a delayed arm. Women will complete a baseline survey and a two-week follow up survey. Primary outcomes include change in knowledge, attitudes, and intention about GCRA from baseline to follow-up 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 delayed intervention trial. 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 will have a greater increase in knowledge, gist comprehension, and intentions to use GCRA after attending to BRCA-Gist compared to the delayed arm. H.2.4. Participants will have a higher uptake of GCRA services 2 weeks after they attend to BRCA-Gist compared to the delayed arm. 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.


95 patients




18+ years old


Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • Self-identify as Black and/or Latina
  • English proficiency
  • Be 18 years old or older
  • Be able to provide informed consent
  • Be at risk of carrying HBOC mutation using personal/family cancer histories based on the NCCN guidelines

Exclusion criteria

  • Prior participation in genetic counseling or genetic testing for hereditary cancer risk.

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


Single Blind

95 participants in 2 patient groups

Immediate BRCA-Gist Intervention
Experimental group
Participants randomized to immediate BRCA-gist will complete the adapted intervention and immediately complete a baseline survey. They will be asked to complete a second survey two weeks after completion of the first one. BRCA-gist is a web-based tutoring system that emulates one-to-one human tutoring via avatars to communicate risk of BRCA1/2. We estimate a completion time of 90 minutes.
Behavioral: BRCA-Gist
Delayed BRCA-Gist Intervention
Experimental group
Participants randomized to delayed BRCA-gist will initially complete a baseline survey. Two weeks after completion of that survey, they will complete the adapted intervention and immediately complete a second survey.
Behavioral: BRCA-Gist

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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