What is familial cancer?
When cancer occurs in two or more relatives in a family, that family has familial cancer. Familial cancer can be sporadic or hereditary. Sporadic familial cancer results from gene changes that occur naturally or as a result of environmental exposures. Sporadic cancers are not due to inheritance of a cancer-causing gene and cannot be passed on to future generations. Hereditary cancer results from inheriting a cancer-causing gene and can be passed on to future generations. Family members who inherit a cancer-causing gene are more likely to develop cancer than other people.
Approximately 5-10% of many cancer types are due to inheritance of a cancer-causing gene. A careful examination of a family’s medical history, sometimes combined with genetic testing, can help distinguish sporadic from hereditary cancer. This knowledge may be helpful in individualizing cancer screening and prevention options.
Familial Cancer Program
The Vermont Cancer Center’s Familial Cancer Program (FCP) was founded in 1994 as a multidisciplinary program developed to help individuals, families, and healthcare practitioners manage cancer risk through state-of-the-art clinical care and research. The FCP clinic provides services in medical oncology, genetic counseling, molecular diagnostics, pathology, and psychology. Since its beginning, specialists at the FCP have evaluated hundreds of families in Vermont and upstate New York for possible hereditary cancer.
The FCP provides advanced care for familial cancer by linking state-of-the-art research studies with patient services. Research efforts include identifying new cancer-causing genes, understanding the psychological impact and consequences of genetic testing and of being at increased risk for cancer, and developing new methods to screen for hereditary cancer. FCP patient services include:
- a risk assessment for breast, ovarian, colon, and other cancers
- information about options for cancer screening, prevention and treatment based on your personal cancer risk
- information and counseling about genetic testing-including a discussion of its risks, benefits, and limitations, and whether it is appropriate for you or your family
Telephone-Based Genetic Counseling: An Equivalence Trial
This is a collaborative study with Georgetown University intended to compare telephone-based genetic counseling to traditional face-to-face genetic counseling among women at risk for carrying BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations.
Studies of Cancer in Families: Human Tissue Banking Protocol for the Familial Cancer
The purpose of this study is to create a bank of blood and tissue samples at the Vermont Cancer Center. This tissue and data bank will be a resource for researchers who study cancer in families. Banked samples and information will be made available to researchers with IRB approved studies of genetics and cancer. By providing blood and tissue samples to researchers we hope to better understand the role of genes in the development of cancer. Principal Investigators for this study are: Marie Wood, M.D., Marc Greenblatt, M.D., Wendy McKinnon, M.S.
For more information about these studies and the eligibility criteria for participation please contact Wendy McKinnon, M.S., C.G.C., Certified Genetic Counselor, Familial Cancer Program, (802) 847-4310, option 2.
To learn more about the FCP visit the FCP website