PHARMACOGENETICS

Most cancers arise as a result of acquired gene mutations that happen over the course of a person’s lifetime. These genetic alterations may have an external cause, such as exposure to sunlight or tobacco. But gene mutations can also be random events that sometimes happen within a cell, without a clear cause. Acquired genetic alterations affect cells originating from the mutation. Normal cells, lacking the mutation will not be affected and acquired mutations will not be passed onto offspring. In contrast, with inherited mutations, every cell in the body is affected and the mutation may be passed to children.

Inherited genetic mutations can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer in a myraid different ways. Many mutations have already been identified through research but there remains much to be determined. Genetic testing is performed to determine whether family members without obvious illness have inherited the same mutation as family member who is known to carry a cancer-associated mutation.

This panel may be considered for individuals with:

  • a clinical history indicative of a hereditary cancer syndrome but a limited information due to small family size or adoption
  • a family history presenting with multiple cancer types that could fit the features of more than one hereditary cancer syndrome

There are also some common general features suggestive of a family with hereditary cancer syndrome. These include:

  • cancer diagnosed at an unusually young age
  • different types of cancer that have occurred independently in the same person
  • cancer that has developed in both organs of a set of paired organs (e.g., both kidneys, both breasts)
  • several close blood relatives that have the same type of cancer
  • unusual cases of a specific cancer type (e.g., male breast cancer)

Call for more information on genes and gene panels tested.