• Pediatric Cancer Genetic Risk Program

    mother and daughter - cancer genetics

    The Pediatric Cancer Genetic Risk Program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's provides cancer risk assessment for children, comprehensive recommendations for managing cancer risk in children, and psychosocial support for families affected by hereditary cancer. We also conduct research into many aspects of cancer risk and its management. We are one of the few cancer genetic risk programs in the U.S. focused specifically on pediatric cancer risk.

    Our goal is to help you determine whether your children are at risk of cancer – and if so, what can be done either to help prevent cancer in your children or to catch it early and address it quickly for the best possible outcome.

    How Our Program Works

    We help you manage all aspects of genetic cancer risk – from consideration of testing to monitoring to counseling. A visit to our program usually includes time with both a physician and a genetic counselor, both of whom have expertise in inherited cancer syndromes that affect children. We are also one of the few programs of this type that includes a pediatric psychologist who specializes in pediatric hereditary cancer. This specialized consultation is a standard part of clinic visits offered to each family.

    Our Pediatric Cancer Genetic Risk Program:

    • Helps parents decide whether to undertake genetic testing of their children, and if so, when the best timing for it might be.
    • Provides genetic and genomic testing to determine risk for inherited cancer syndromes.
    • Helps families understand the implications of the genetic/genomic test results for the child and other relatives.
    • Designs individualized programs to monitor for the earliest signs of cancer and to reduce the risks of cancer when appropriate; we help identify the right specialists to see for monitoring, and how often you should see them.
    • Talks with children to help them understand genetic testing and what the results might mean for them.
    • Guides parents in how to talk to children about hereditary cancer, including when to talk with them and what information to provide.
    • Helps families cope with the stress of a hereditary cancer diagnosis.

    We also provide consultation to community-based providers who may be unfamiliar with the unique medical and psychosocial issues that arise when a family receives a hereditary cancer diagnosis. 

    Who our program helps

    If you or your doctor believe your child might have an inherited form of cancer or be at increased risk for developing cancer – or if you are considering having children and want to better understand possible risk for your children – you may wish to schedule an appointment with us.

    Our program is recommended for children who have:

    • A diagnosis or prior treatment for a rare childhood cancer or brain tumor
    • A diagnosis or prior treatment for a cancer of any type plus a family history of cancer
    • A strong family history of cancer
    • A parent (or another relative) known to have a cancer syndrome or a cancer gene mutation

    The field of genetics is rapidly changing, and we provide advanced options in genetic testing across the spectrum of new and established inherited cancer syndromes. The syndromes include, but are not limited to:

    • Cowden syndrome
    • DICER1 syndrome
    • Familial Adenomatous Polyposis
    • Hereditary retinoblastoma 
    • Li-Fraumeni syndrome
    • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia
    • Pheochromocytoma/paragangliglioma syndrome
    • Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome

    Although our Pediatric Cancer Genetic Risk Program is focused on pediatric cancer risk, adult family members may choose to visit the Dana-Farber Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention. Both programs work closely together, allowing us to provide integrated care for families.

    Our care team

    Our team includes pediatric oncologists, genetic counselors, psychologists, and other specialists from the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, the Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the Division of Genetics at Boston Children's Hospital.

    The core clinical team at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s includes:

    Most cases are reviewed by a larger multidisciplinary team composed of genetic counselors, geneticists, pediatric specialists, psychologists, and oncologists from Dana-Farber and Boston Children’s Hospital. This larger team also forms the basis of expert referrals as needed and includes the following specialists:

    • Judy Garber, MD, MPH, Director, Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
    • Huma Rana, MD, Clinical Director, Center for Cancer Genetics and Prevention, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
    • Wen-Hann Tan, BMBS, Geneticist, Boston Children’s Hospital
    • David Miller, MD, PhD, Geneticist, Boston Children’s Hospital
    • Victor Fox, MD, Director, Center for Pediatric Polyposis, Boston Children's Hospital
    • Stephen Huang, MD, Director, Thyroid Program, Boston Children's Hospital
    • Pamela Hawley, MS, CGC, Genetic Counselor, Boston Children’s Hospital
    • Stephanie (Newton) Coury, MS, CGC, Genetic Counselor, Boston Children’s Hospital
    • Sharyn Lincoln, MS, CGC, Genetic Counselor, Boston Children’s Hospital
    • Jill Brace O'Neill, MS, RN-CS, PNP, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
    • Andrea Patenaude, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

    Our research

    In recent years, researchers have made great strides in building our understanding of how genetic factors influence cancer risk – and how we can leverage new technologies for testing and screening. At the Pediatric Cancer Genetic Risk Program, our comprehensive program includes not only the clinical care of children with cancer but incorporates research at the forefront of genetic discovery.

    Some of our research interests include:

    • Multiplex sequencing to identify hereditary cancer risk in pediatric cancer patients
    • Screening with whole body MRI for detection of primary tumors in children and adults with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS)
    • Hereditary risk factors for thyroid cancer
    • Support for pediatric patients and families at risk of hereditary cancer

    Contact us

    We offer appointments Monday-Friday. We will work with your insurance company to obtain coverage; in most cases, insurance companies will provide coverage.

    Phone: 617-632-4298
    Fax: 617-582-7434
    Email: pedi_genetics@dfci.harvard.edu

    Mailing address:
    450 Brookline Avenue
    Dana Building, Rm. 3-122
    Boston Ma, 02215

    International patients
    Email pedi_international@dfci.harvard.edu, call +1 617-632-2952, or visit our International Patient Services web section to learn more about our specialized services for international patients.

  • Contact the Pediatric Cancer Risk Program

    Call 617-632-4298 or email us to learn more or to schedule an appointment.
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