BRCA-Positive Mom Takes Control of Her Cancer Risk

After learning in December 2014 that her father was a carrier of the BRCA-1 gene, Katherine Saunders immediately knew she needed genetic testing. The 37-year-old mom of two had a 50-50 chance of inheriting the gene, which increases the risk of ovarian and breast cancers, and was likely responsible for the multiple breast cancer diagnoses in … Continued

Genetics vs. Genomics: What’s the Difference?

Gene, genetics, genome, and genomics all are derived from a Greek word – gen – meaning birth or origin. Almost every aspect of health and disease is influenced in some way by the inherited information in cells, written in the chemical code of DNA and packaged in distinct units known as genes. The complete set … Continued

Can Pancreatic Cancer Be Inherited?

Most cases of pancreatic cancer develop for unknown reasons, but about 10 percent occur in families that have a strong history of the disease. That doesn’t mean that if you are a member of such a family you will develop pancreatic cancer, but rather that you are at a higher risk for it. “Research has … Continued

How to Talk to Your Family about Genetic Cancer Risk

Certain genetic conditions, such as Lynch syndrome, significantly increase your risk of developing some forms of cancer. Learning you have one of these conditions can be emotionally challenging, and deciding when and how to tell your relatives can add an additional layer of worry. Katherine Schneider, MPH, LGC, a senior genetic counselor in Dana-Farber’s Center … Continued

What Is Lynch Syndrome?

Lynch syndrome is the most common hereditary form of colorectal cancer. In the United States, about 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed each year and approximately 3 to 5% of these cancers are caused by Lynch syndrome. Individuals with Lynch syndrome have a 50 to 80 percent lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer compared … Continued

How Genetics Can Help Predict — and Sometimes Stop — Childhood Cancers

Amy Kindstedt hates cancer, but the 9-year-old is very thankful for one thing: Because genetic testing on her baby brother Hunter revealed he had the same genetic mutation she did, his cancer was caught much earlier –  possibly sparing him the same level of intense treatment she endured. The mapping of the human genome has … Continued

The Latest in Genetics and Women’s Cancers

Knowledge of genetics and women’s cancers has come a long way in the 20 years since the BRCA1/2 genes were discovered. Scientists are able to identify more genes that can increase risk, leading to better prevention and improved treatment. “One of the most exciting developments is the knowledge that patients with hereditary risk have tumors … Continued

Family Ties: Why Genetics Matter

By Christine Hensel Triantos  On a cold winter day in 2002, Sharon Goyette stepped into Dana-Farber’s Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention. She was a 21-year-old college student, and this was the last place she wanted to be. But her mother had insisted. After developing colon cancer, Goyette’s mother had been diagnosed with Lynch syndrome … Continued

Angelina Jolie Puts Spotlight on Genetic Testing and Ovarian Cancer Risk

Once again Angelina Jolie is making headlines after penning another op-ed in The New York Times. The actress shared she has undergone more cancer preventive surgery – this time prophylactic salpingo-oophorectomy, a procedure to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. Two years ago, she wrote about her decision to have a prophylactic double mastectomy, … Continued

20 Years After BRCA: What We’ve Learned About Genetics and Breast Cancer

Twenty years ago, scientists announced the discovery of BRCA1, which arguably has become the best-known cancer susceptibility gene in the world. When inherited in a mutated form, the gene sharply increases a woman’s chances of developing breast or ovarian cancer, often at an early age. The discovery has changed the way women with a family … Continued

The Truth About BRCA Testing and Genetic Risk

Cancer genetics has come a long way in the last two decades, leading to increased prevention and improved treatment options. Today, research is shining the light on why certain people have an increased risk for cancer. “It took us 20 years to get where we are today with the knowledge of BRCA1/2, but we are … Continued

Five Things You Need to Know About Cancer Genetics

Although most cancers are sporadic or occur by chance, a small percentage are due to inherited genetic (or germline) mutations, which can often be identified through genetic testing. These mutations are different from somatic mutations, which are not inherited, but occur during one’s lifetime. Profile, a research project launched by Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, … Continued

Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together

By Jenn Perry When I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 36, it was like déjà vu for my family. My mother had been diagnosed with the same disease at the same age, while pregnant with her third child. I learned I had breast cancer just six months after giving birth to my second daughter. … Continued

Understanding Genomics and Cancer

If the new era of “targeted” cancer drugs and personalized treatments for patients realizes its promise, the power of genomics will get a lot of the credit. Genomics is one of the most commonly heard terms in cancer research and biotech companies today – but what does it really mean? What is genomics? Most people … Continued

ASCO Recommendations on Family History a ‘Good First Step’

Before any patient begins treatment for cancer, oncologists should discuss first- and second-degree family cancer history, according to new recommendations from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The ASCO recommendations, published recently, are the first to focus on family history and a person’s genetic risk of cancer.

Tips for Talking to Your Children About Genetic Test Results

There are many decisions parents face after testing for genetic cancer risk, including whether to tell their children and how to approach the conversation. If you decide to talk to your children about the test results, allow yourself some time to process the information; you want to be calm and clear when you talk with … Continued

Outsmart Your Genes: Understanding BRCA1/2 Cancer Risk

When Angelina Jolie underwent a preventative double mastectomy earlier this year, this issue of cancer risk and genetics made front-page headlines. Jolie, who announced the operation in a New York Times op-ed, tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation and learned she had an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer. Jolie’s announcement left many … Continued