Health Promotion Research Center

Pathways to Genetic Counseling is a randomized controlled trial that will evaluate patient navigation’s effect on genetic counseling referrals and attendance. 

Why This Study Matters

National guidelines recommend genetic counseling for colorectal cancer patients diagnosed under age 50 as well as patients diagnosed at any age whose tumors show signs of mismatch repair deficiency during microsatellite instability screening. Genetic counseling helps individuals understand and access germline genetic testing, which is necessary to diagnose inherited colorectal cancer syndromes. Individuals with inherited colorectal cancer syndromes are at substantially increased risk of colorectal cancer and other cancers, making appropriate diagnosis essential.

Despite clear clinical guidelines and the gravity of a hereditary cancer diagnosis, genetic counseling referral and attendance among eligible colorectal cancer patients are low nationally and in the greater Seattle area.

Study Overview

Pathways to Genetic Counseling will offer patient navigation to a random sample of eligible colorectal cancer patients. Patient navigation is an evidence-based method of addressing barriers to accessing recommended care. The patient navigator provides colorectal cancer patients education about genetic counseling and, if they are interested, emotional and logistical support in making and attending genetic counseling appointments. Patient eligibility will be based on their age at colorectal cancer diagnosis (under age 50) and/or positive microsatellite instability screening results.

Additional Provider Resources

Providers can learn more about hereditary colorectal cancer and Lynch syndrome, the most common cause of inherited colorectal cancer, from the links below.

Meet the Team

The Pathways to Genetic Counseling study team is based at the UW Health Promotion Research Center (UW HPRC) and is partnering with the Institute for Translational Health Sciences to identify UW Medicine patients eligible for genetic counseling.

Sarah Knerr (she/her), PhD, MPH
Principal Investigator

Cynthia W. Ko (she/her), MD, MS

Eric Q. Konnick (he/him), MD, MS

Paul E. Swanson (he/him), MD

Allison Cole (she/her), MD, MS

Ying Zhang (she/her), MD, MPH

Marlana Kohn (she/her), MPH
HPRC Research Scientist

Alyssa Reed (she/her), MPH
HPRC Research Coordinator

Sarah Stayman (she/her), MPH
Patient Navigator

The Pathways to Genetic Counseling project (SIP 20-003) is supported by the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research Center cooperative agreement, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $650,000. The contents of this webpage are those of the UW Health Promotion Research Center and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.