Of the tens of thousands of genes in cellular DNA, one group of genes is tasked with ensuring that every cell reproduces itself exactly when it divides to make new cells. Perhaps the best known of these genes are the BRCA genes, which if inherited with a significant alteration, confer a markedly increased risk of certain cancers over a lifetime. Moreover, it is now clear that many cancers can acquire mutations in the BRCA and other related DNA repair genes only in their tumor cells, even though the patient was not born with the genetic mutation.
Panos Konstantinopoulos, MD, PhD
As the importance of these genes has become increasingly evident in the risk, growth, and treatment of cancer, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is launching a new center of excellence—the Center for BRCA and Related Genes—dedicated to the treatment of, prevention of, and research into BRCA-related cancers.
Access to Novel Therapies
Patients with inherited BRCA mutations, as well as those with acquired BRCA mutations in their tumors alone, are increasingly likely to benefit from new classes of drugs such as poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors and other cell-cycle checkpoint inhibitors, as well as targeted agents alone or in combination with immunotherapies. An important priority of the Center for BRCA and Related Genes will be to provide access to these novel therapies for patients with BRCA-mutated and BRCA-related cancers through clinical trials, with a particular focus on overcoming developed resistance to chemotherapy, targeted agents, and DNA repair inhibitors.
“Recent research at Dana-Farber and other leading cancer centers has identified genetic defects in BRCA-related tumors that make them vulnerable to new effective treatments,” said Panos Konstantinopoulos, MD, PhD, Director of Translational Research, Gynecologic Oncology, Dana-Farber, and Director of the new center. “The rapid accumulation of insights into DNA repair genes in an expanding array of cancers and the development of new and emerging targeted therapies exploiting defects in DNA repair provide the perfect opportunity for a dedicated comprehensive center to help accelerate progress.”
Teams of Specialists
Patients visiting the Center for BRCA and Related Genes will be evaluated by a designated expert Dana-Farber physician, with a genetics evaluation as needed. Teams of specialists at the center will work closely together to offer patients the latest therapies and clinical services, including access to innovative clinical trials.
In addition to the treatment and prevention of BRCA-related cancers, another major priority of the center is early detection of these diseases, with a focus on ovarian and pancreatic cancers, for which there are currently no reliable and effective screening tests.