CCBD: Clinical Cancer Genetics
The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders has a comprehensive program in clinical cancer genetics under the direction of Dr. Jonathan Wickiser with the services of trained genetic counselor Pia Banerji, M.S. The program is a component of the Clinical Cancer Genetics Program at UT Southwestern.
The Clinical Cancer Genetics program offers a genetic cancer risk assessment service. By identifying high-risk families, we can help them understand their risk of developing cancer as well as their options for prevention, early detection and treatment.
In many families a pattern of cancer is obvious. In other families a pattern may not be so easily seen due to a small family size or an incomplete family history. Current estimates are that at least 5 percent of all cancers are due to a specific inherited syndrome and approximately 10 percent of cancers are familial.
Characteristics of cancers that are inherited:
- A cancer occurring at an unusually young age compared with the usual presentation of that type of cancer.
- Development of more than one type of cancer in an individual.
- Family history of cancer of the same type in close relatives.
- High rate of cancer within a family.
- Related cancers in the same family (e.g., breast and sarcoma; hepatoblastoma and colon).
One of the main reasons to seek cancer genetic counseling is to determine if an individual or family members are at an increased risk of cancer. If it is determined that there is an increased risk of cancer, certain preventive measures may be undertaken to reduce the risk of actually developing the disease. Further, discovering that a person or a family member is not at increased risk of cancer can relieve anxiety and can avoid unnecessary intensive monitoring strategies.
During a genetic risk assessment a complete family history may be obtained. Key medical records will be obtained and reviewed in order to document the history. The basis of how cancer can occur and be inherited will be discussed. A cancer risk analysis and calculation will be done. The patient will be informed about the advantages and limitations of the genetic testing. All of the information discussed will be documented in a letter that will be sent to you following the visit.
Genetic testing may also be done. It is possible to look for changes in genetic material or genes that are related to cancer. Since some of these changes or alterations can be inherited, it is possible to detect these changes in the blood or the blood of family members who do not have cancer.
Genetic testing can currently be done for retinoblastoma and certain other cancer syndromes including Li-Fraumeni breast-sarcoma cancer family syndrome and familial polyposis, which is sometimes associated with hepatoblastoma and desmoid tumors. We also evaluate and follow families with von Hippel Lindau Disease. Other types of cancer testing may be available based on your family history.
The UT Southwestern Simmons Cancer Center maintains a cancer genetics research registry. This registry was established in 1992 to identify and monitor people who have an increased risk of cancer due to their family background. Enrollment in the registry is completely confidential. The registry is a database of families with various types of cancer who are participating in research studies. As new cancer genes are identified and the DNA sequences are determined, we will be able to study individuals who are at risk.
To schedule an appointment or speak to a genetic counselor, call 214-645-4673.