, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 1002-1004
Date: 13 Apr 2007

From Genetic Testing to the Operating Room

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Cancer is a genetic disease, resulting in simplistic terms from an accumulation of genetic changes within a cell that render it unresponsive to the normal controls for cell growth, repair or programmed death. The detection of a specific gene change conferring an inherited cancer risk can now be accomplished by direct genetic testing for patients with a number of familial cancer syndromes. In these uncommon disorders, a genetic mutation occurs in a critical gene, and the error is inherited in the germline (and therefore present in one allelic copy of the gene in every cell). Furthermore, it has been recognized that the chance occurrence of one or more of these defects in a somatic cell can contribute to the more common sporadic tumors that arise in the same target tissues. Increasingly, cancers are being characterized at the molecular level, and the number and nature of these genetic changes can be correlated with the biologic behavior of the cancer and its prognosis, or may identify an ...