Skip Navigation

About the Center for BRCA and Related Genes

  • Panos Konstantinopoulos, MD, PhD, with a patient

  • The Center for BRCA and Related Genes provides expert clinical care to patients with BRCA-mutated and BRCA-related cancers, regardless of tumor type. We offer outstanding interdisciplinary, inter-disease group collaboration across multiple Dana-Farber disease centers. Our team of specialists works closely together to offer patients the latest therapies and clinical services, including access to innovative clinical trials.

    Patients can access the Center either as new to Dana-Farber or as previously followed in a Dana-Farber disease center. Patients are evaluated by an appropriate designated expert Center physician, with a genetics evaluation as indicated.

    Following expert evaluation, patients will receive recommendations for therapy and/or enter a clinical trial. Clinical samples and data collected from patients across disease centers will be used for focused correlative, translational, and laboratory-based investigation of BRCA and BRCA-related genes.

    Deep Expertise in the Study of BRCA and Related Genes

    Heritable alterations (mutations) in BRCA1, BRCA2, and other BRCA-related DNA repair genes confer increased risk of multiple tumor types, particularly breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cancers. Individuals who carry inherited mutations in these genes face multiple challenges related to cancer genetic testing, early detection, screening, cancer risk and risk reduction, and reproductive decision-making.

    Over the past 20 years, Dana-Farber investigators have made critical discoveries that have illuminated not only the function of these crucial genes, but also how their dysfunction leads to cancer susceptibility. More recently our basic and translational researchers have identified genetic defects in these tumors that make them vulnerable to new effective treatments.

    Moreover, it is now clear that many other tumors can acquire mutations in the DNA repair genes in their tumor cells only, rendering the tumors sensitive to the same BRCA-targeted treatments, even though the patient was not born with the genetic mutation. The rapid accumulation of insights into DNA repair genes in an expanding array of human 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. The Center will adopt a multi-pronged approach with focus on BRCA and genes etiologically connected to BRCA.

    From Testing to Treatment

    The Center will provide a home for testing, care, and clinical trials to bring new agents and new combinations to individuals with BRCA or related mutations inherited or acquired in their tumors only. The Center will collate data and bio-samples from patients across the disease programs to serve as a centralized source for research groups at the Institute and beyond working on BRCA or related genes.

    Dana-Farber boasts a rich tradition of basic, translational, and clinical research and an extraordinary legacy in the study of the BRCA and related genes. Early pioneering work from David Livingston, MD, characterized BRCA1 protein in ovarian and breast cancer cells. Shortly thereafter, Alan D'Andrea, MD, demonstrated that mutations in BRCA2 contribute to a rare human genetic disease called Fanconi Anemia (FA), clarifying their critical roles in repair of specific errors in DNA. These investigators also identified the PALB2, BRIP1, and BARD1 genes, and more recently the POLymerase genes — all associated with cancer risk and all potentially exploitable therapeutically.

    Dana-Farber has continued this outstanding track record of discoveries in the basic biology of BRCA1/2 and other genes critical for DNA repair to complement our groundbreaking translational and clinical research. Furthermore, we have played a critical role in the development and eventual FDA approval of novel therapies (such as PARP-inhibitors) for patients with BRCA-mutated and BRCA-related ovarian, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancers. Our specialized Center enables us to continue to rapidly bring these discoveries to benefit patients and families.

    Our Specialized Center: Care and Research

    The Center for BRCA and Related Genes at Dana-Farber is one of a very few such centers nationally and internationally.

    Important to the Center are Dana-Farber's unique collaborative environment and extensive human and scientific resources. Our world-class clinical faculty and clinical, translational, and basic research investigators offer unparalleled backgrounds and expertise in:

    • Biomarkers
    • Biostatistics
    • Cancer biology
    • Cancer detection
    • Cancer genetics
    • Cancer prevention
    • Clinical oncology
    • Computational biology
    • Disease models
    • DNA repair
    • Drug Development
    • Immunology
    • Molecular biology
    • Quality of life, survivorship, outcomes

    Our groundbreaking basic, translational, and clinical research and discoveries in the field of BRCA-related cancers are leading to new treatments for patients with several cancer types.

    Our Center's Importance to Patients and Families

    Patients with BRCA-mutated cancers and families with inherited cancer risk face multiple challenges, including genetic testing, interpretation of genetic results, screening/early detection, risk reduction, treatment options, quality of life, and survivorship. Fortunately, many new and emerging therapies are becoming available for patients with BRCA-mutated cancers and BRCA-related cancers.

    The Center for BRCA and Related Genes coordinates and accelerates BRCA-directed therapies and clinical trials to patients across cancer types such as breast, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cancers — as well as across the even broader range of tumors that may acquire a BRCA-related mutation over time.

    The Center's Mission and Goals

    The overarching missions of the Center for BRCA and Related Genes are to:

    • Improve access to testing and options for managing increased cancer risk for individuals and families with inherited cancer risk
    • Improve the survival of patients with BRCA-mutated and related cancers by facilitating novel discoveries and translating the latest technologic advances to the clinic
    • Improve our understanding of the molecular and functional details of BRCA and BRCA-related genes that will both facilitate drug discovery and expand the scope of testing for risk

    We do this by:

    • Providing access to Dana-Farber's exemplary clinical care of patients with cancers with inherited or acquired mutations in BRCA and BRCA-related genes
    • Conducting clinical trials of novel strategies for therapy, risk reduction (prevention), and early detection of patients with BRCA-mutated cancers; performing correlative and experimental work with these therapies
    • Functioning as a valuable resource for patients with BRCA-mutated and BRCA-related cancers and for families with inherited cancer risk
    • Promoting basic/clinical/translational research collaboration by providing support and facilitating communication among researchers of different disciplines who are focusing on BRCA-mutated cancers