Psychosocial Cancer Genetics Research

Our research group, lead by Dr Laura Forrest, conducts psychosocial and genetic counselling research in the area of inherited cancer and cancer genomics. Our group forms part of the larger Familial Cancer Research Group and we are located within the Parkville Familial Cancer Centre at the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. We conduct our research alongside the multidisciplinary genetics and oncology team in the Parkville Familial Cancer Centre.

Genetics and genomics are dramatically changing the landscape of how we understand cancer risk, as well as, diagnose and treat cancer. Our research aims to understand how genetics and genomics impact individuals and their families’ experiences of being at risk of cancer and experiences of cancer diagnoses and treatment.

Psychosocial Cancer Genetics Research
Psychosocial Cancer Genetics Research Group with Maatje Scheepers-Joynt, Rowan Forbes Shepherd, Laura Forrest, Erin Tutty

Research projects

Support model for young women who are BRCA1/2 carriers

This project aims to develop an evidence-based model to support young women who have a BRCA1/2 gene change.

The lived experiences of young Australians with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome:  Are their psychosocial needs being met?

This study aims to understand how young people experience Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS) on a day-to-day basis, and what their age-specific support needs are.

IMPACT Psychosocial: Experiences of Lynch Syndrome Carriers’ Receiving Prostate Cancer Risk Information

This study aims to understand men's experiences of being notified that they may be at risk of additional cancers and invited to participate in a prostate cancer screening study (that is the IMPACT study).

Evaluation of Telephone Genetic Counselling to Facilitate BRCA1/2 Testing

The project aims to evaluate the telephone genetic counselling service offering BRCA1/2 testing for women with high-grade serous ovarian cancer.

CASCADE-PIPS: Why patients consent to a rapid autopsy program at the end of life?

CASCADE is the first Australian research program to enrol patients who have advanced metastatic disease and who consent to undergo rapid autopsy following death. Together with BROCADE, a population breast cancer specific study within CASCADE, these programs enable research into treatment resistant cancers including melanoma, ovarian, breast, prostate, and lung cancer. Currently, however, we do not know why patients who have advanced metastatic disease agree to consent to a rapid autopsy program such as CASCADE, how patients make a decision to take part, and how consenting to a rapid autopsy study impacts patients’ end of life. Therefore, this qualitative study aims to examine participants’ motivations and experiences of consenting to CASCADE.

Research projects


Dr Laura Forrest
Research Group Leader
Phone:  03 8559 6191
Email:  [email protected]

Mr Rowan Forbes Shepherd
PhD Candidate
Phone:  03 8559 6194
Email:   [email protected]

Ms Joanne McKinley
Research Coordinator
Phone:  03 8559 6195
Email:  [email protected]

Publications, presentations and other

Rasmussen, V., L. Forrest, I. Ray-Coquard, M. Glrodet, P. Meesu, M. P. Sunyach, J. Y. Blay, O. Bally, M. Brahmi, M. Ballinger, E. Niedermayr, M. Rogasik, D. Thomas, J. Halliday and M. A. Young (2016). "A comparison of Australian and French families affected by sarcoma: Perceptions of genetics and incidental findings." Personalized Medicine In press ( Accepted 20 Sept 2017)

Young, M. A., L. Forrest, V. Rasmussen, P. James, G. Mitchell, S. Sawyer and N. Hallowell (2016). "Making Sense of SNPs: Women’s understanding and experiences of receiving a personalised profile of their breast cancer risks." Journal of Genetic Counselling  Under review.

Rasmussen, V., Forrest, L., Ballinger, M., Ray-Coquard, I., Niedermayr, E., Thomas, D., Halliday, J., & Young, M.A. A comparison of Australian and French perceptions of genetics and preferences for return of incidental findings in families affected by sarcoma. August 2016 submitted to European Journal of Human Genetics.

Farrelly A; White V; Young MA; Jefford M; Ieropoli S; Duffy J; Winship I, Meiser B. (2015) Implementing a telephone based peer support intervention for women with a BRCA1/2 mutation. Familial Cancer. 14:373-383.

Crook A*, Plunkett L*, Forrest LE, Hallowell N, Wake S, Alsop K, Gleeson M, Bowtell D, Mitchell G. (2014) The Australian Ovarian Cancer Study Group, Young M-A. Psychosocial needs of research participants being notified of clinically significant research results from the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study. Eur J Hum Genet. 23: 152-158. DOI: 10.1038/ejhg.2014.86.

White V, Young MA, Farrelly A, Meiser B, Williamson E, Jefford M, Ieropoli S, Duffy J, Winship I. (2014) Randomized controlled trial of a telephone-based peer support program for female carriers of a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation: impact on psychological distress. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 32: 4073-4080.

Crook A, Plunkett L, Forrest LE, Hallowell N, Wake S, Alsop K, Gleeson M, Bowtell D, Mitchell G, The Australian Ovarian Cancer Study Group, Young MA (2014) Connecting patients, researchers and clinical genetics services: the experiences of participants in the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study (AOCS). European Journal of Human Genetics. 23: 152-158.

Hallowell N, Alsop K, Gleeson M, Crook A, Plunkett L, Bowtell D, Mitchell G, Young M, The Australian Ovarian Cancer Study Group (2013) The responses of research participants and their next of kin to receiving feedback of genetic test results following participation in the Australian Ovarian Cancer Study. Genetics in Medicine. 15:458-465.

Young MA, Herlihy A, Mitchell G, Thomas DM, Ballinger M, Tucker K, Lewis CR, Neuhaus S, Halliday J (2013) The attitudes of people with sarcoma and their family towards genomics and incidental information arising from genetic research. Clinical Sarcoma Research. 3:11.

Farrelly A, White V, Meiser B, Jefford M, Young MA, Ieropoli S, Winship I, Duffy J (2013) Unmet support needs and distress among women with a BRCA1/2 mutation. Familial Cancer 12(3):509-518.

Duncan R, Young MA (2013) Tricky teens: are they really tricky or do genetic health professionals simply require more training in adolescent health? Personalized Medicine 10:589-600.                                                                                                                        

Forrest LE, Delatycki MB, Curnow L, Skene L, Aitken MA. (2011) An audit of clinical service examining the uptake of genetic testing by at-risk family members. Genetics in Medicine. 14: 122 – 128.

Young MA (2011) Ethical Tensions in Genetic Counselling Research. Monash Bioeth Rev 29:1-12.

Keogh L, van Vliet CM, Studdert D, Maskiell J, Macrae FA, St John DJ, Gaff CL, Young M-A, Southey MC, Giles GG, Rosenthal DA, Hopper J, Jenkins M. (2009) Is uptake of genetic testing for colorectal cancer influenced by knowledge of insurance implications? MJA 191: 255-258.

Forrest LE, Curnow L, Delatycki MB, Skene L, Aitken M. (2008). ‘Health first, genetics second’: exploring families’ experiences of communicating genetic information. European Journal of Human Genetics, 16: 1329-1335.

Forrest LE, Burke J, Bacic S, Amor D. (2008) Increased genetic counselling support improves communication of genetic information in families. Genetics in Medicine, 10: 167 – 172.

Rees G, Young MA, Gaff C, Martin P. (2007) Health Beliefs and behaviours of women who have received genetic counselling for breast cancer. J Genet Couns. 16(4):457-468.

Rees G, Young MA, Gaff C, Martin P. (2006) A qualitative study of health professional’s views regarding provision of bahavioural risk information during genetic consultation for breast cancer. J Genet Couns. 15:95-104.

Opportunities for students

Additionally, the Psychosocial Cancer Genetics Research Group are passionate about supporting students and assisting early career researchers. The team have an excellent reputation in the supervision of post-graduate students, including PhD students, Master’s students and Health Information students from a genetic counselling background. 

Further info: 

Postdoctoral Fellow; Group leader: Psychosocial Cancer Genetics Research Group
Director: Parkville Familial Cancer Centre; Consultant Clinical Geneticist; Group Leader: Familial Cancer Research, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre