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Fox Chase Cancer Center Launches Department of Clinical Genetics

New Department Built on the Success of Fox Chase's Groundbreaking Family Risk Assessment Programs in Melanoma, Ovary, Breast, GI and Prostate Cancers

PHILADELPHIA (July 22, 2009) — Fox Chase Cancer Center has appointed Mary Daly, MD, PhD, FACP, as chair of the center's newly created Department of Clinical Genetics. The department is built on the success of Fox Chase's Margaret Dyson Family Risk Assessment Program, which Daly began in 1991 for individuals with a family history of breast and/or ovarian cancer, women who have had breast or ovarian cancer, or a biopsy showing benign breast disease.  The program was one of the first such programs in the nation to offer screening, education, and counseling to healthy people at increased genetic risk for disease. Since 1991, Fox Chase has developed additional risk assessment programs in melanoma, gastrointestinal and prostate cancers.

The new Department of Clinical Genetics will consolidate all of the clinical aspects of the existing risk assessment programs into a comprehensive service designed to provide risk assessment, testing, genetic counseling, and clinical intervention in the prevention of cancers among high-risk individuals and families.

"Dr. Daly, our genetic counselors, oncologists and researchers at Fox Chase have worked together to create risk assessment programs that have served as national models for both research and patient care," says Michael V. Seiden, MD, PhD, president and CEO of Fox Chase.  "As we move toward the clinical use of genetic and molecular information to more effectively prevent, diagnose, and treat cancers, the Department of Clinical Genetics embodies our continuing commitment to translate research progress into state-of-the-art care across cancer medicine."

There are currently 20 to 40 genes involved in inherited cancer disorders, depending on how they are categorized. Some, such as the genetic mutations responsible for the inherited Li Fraumeni disorder, are very rare, while others, such as BRCA1/2 variants related to breast cancer, are relatively more common. Since their inception, the risk assessment programs at Fox Chase have incorporated both common and rare genetic disorders into their practice–something the new Department of Clinical Genetics will expand upon with greater resources at its disposal.

"We have gotten to the point as an institution where our risk assessment programs warrant a full-fledged clinical department, allowing us to expand the services we can offer and incorporating other gene disorders, as well as provide new opportunities for the researchers with whom we collaborate," says Daly.

According to Daly, the genetic testing itself is only one aspect of risk assessment and prevention. A comprehensive approach includes genetic counseling, which can help patients and their families understand and cope with the fact that they have an inherited risk for disease.

"We have demonstrated the effectiveness of and, indeed, the basic need for, providing counseling along with genetic testing for high-risk families," says Daly. "We feel that it is a responsible approach that combines the power of genetic research with the best in cancer medicine and prevention."

The Department of Clinical Genetics will be closely aligned with ongoing research initiatives in Fox Chase's Cancer Prevention and Control Program, as well as its Keystone Program in Personalized Risk and Prevention, a collaborative translational science program co-led by Daly and funded through philanthropic donations to Fox Chase.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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