Leaders in Cancer Genetics

Stanford's Cancer Genetics Program doctors and researchers have been instrumental in developing many of the leading technologies used to understand, diagnose, test and screen for hereditary cancer syndromes. This expertise allows our specialists to offer you personalized plans for managing your cancer risk.

Cancer Genetics Program
875blakewilburdr-stanford
875 Blake Wilbur Drive
Palo Alto, CA 94304
Phone: 650-498-6000 Getting Here
Maps & Directions
875 Blake Wilbur Drive
Palo Alto, CA 94304
Phone: 650-498-6000 Getting Here

Our Doctors

Care and Treatment of Hereditary Cancers

Autosomal Dominant Inheritance

Genes are the blueprints for making the substances, called proteins, our bodies need to develop and work properly. Most genes come in pairs, one of which is inherited from the mother and the other from the father. A mutation is a change in a gene that prevents it from working properly. Mutations in genes are inherited from our biological parents in specific ways. One of the basic patterns of inheritance of mutations is called autosomal dominant inheritance.

What is autosomal dominant inheritance?

Autosomal dominant inheritance means that the gene carrying a mutation is located on one of the autosomes (chromosome pairs 1 through 22). This means that males and females are equally likely to inherit the mutation. "Dominant" means that having a mutation in just one of the two copies of a particular gene is all it takes for a person to have a trait, such as an increased risk of developing cancer (see explanation below on "variable expressivity" and "reduced penetrance"). When a parent has a dominant gene mutation, there is a 50 percent chance that any child he/she has will also inherit the mutation.

There are four possible combinations in the children. Two of the four, or 50 percent, have inherited the mutation. The other 50 percent have not inherited the mutation. These four combinations are possible every time a pregnancy occurs between these two individuals. The gender of the children (whether they are sons or daughters) does not matter. The chance is 50/50 for each pregnancy.

An important characteristic of dominant gene mutations is that they can have variable expression. This means that some people have milder or more severe symptoms than others. In addition, which systems of the body the mutation affects can vary as can the age at which the disease starts, even in the same family. Another important characteristic of dominant gene mutations is that in some cases, they can have reduced penetrance. This means that sometimes a person can have a dominant mutation but not show any signs of disease. The concept of reduced penetrance is particularly important in the case of autosomal dominant cancer susceptibility genes. If a person has inherited a cancer susceptibility gene, it does not mean they will automatically develop cancer. It simply means that they have inherited a mutation in a gene that gives them a higher chance to develop cancer than the general population (i.e., someone without the mutation).

Most families know that there is a dominant trait or disorder in their family, because it is passed from parent to child and can be seen in many generations. When a cancer susceptibility gene mutation is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner, it means that the mutation can be inherited from the mother, or the father, who themselves may or may not have ever had any type of cancer. However, with autosomal dominant inheritance, if a parent does not have the gene mutation associated with cancer risk in the family, he/she cannot pass it on his/her children.

Education

Cancer in the Family

Many people have relatives with cancer but when should you be concerned about a genetic cancer risk? Who might benefit from genetic testing and how is it done?

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.

Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.

Before beginning treatment, ask your doctor about any clinical trials you should consider. Learn more about clinical trials for cancer patients.

For Patients

PREPARE FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT

Review the New Patient Packet for information about:

  • What to expect on the day of your appointment
  • Maps, directions, parking, public transit options, and contact information
  • Other patient resources

Bring completed forms found in the New Patient Appointment Letter and Pre-Visit Questionnaire.

AFTER YOUR APPOINTMENT

See the BRCA Decision Tool which guides the management of cancer risks for BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers.

MEDICAL RELEASE

Please fax the Medical Record Release Form to your new patient coordinator. The medical release form is an authorization form for external facilities to release medical records to Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics). 

International Patients
Phone: +1 650-723-8561
Email: IMS@stanfordmed.org

Call us to make an appointment

650-498-6000

For Health Care Professionals

PHYSICIAN HELPLINE

Phone: 1-866-742-4811
Fax: 650-320-9443
Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics) provides comprehensive services to refer and track patients, as well as provides the latest information and news for physicians and office staff. For help with all referral needs and questions visit Referring Physicians.

HOW TO REFER

Fax a referral form with supporting documentation to 650-320-9443.

Please note, though this form is from Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), it is also used for all Cancer Center referrals.

Track your patients' progress and communicate with Stanford providers securely online.

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