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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Dec;1214:70-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05789.x. Epub 2010 Sep 28.

Mendelian genetics of rare--and not so rare--cancers.

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Genomic Medicine Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.


Mendelian genetics forms the basis for gene-informed risk assessment and management for the patient and family, and should be at the very foundation of 21st century personalization of healthcare. Yet this is an underutilized commodity. Identification and characterization of germline mutations in the RET proto-oncogene, encoding a receptor tyrosine kinase, as causing >90% of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2), an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by medullary thyroid cancer, pheochromocytoma, and hyperparathyroidism, heralded the era of evidence-based molecular diagnosis, predictive testing, genetic counseling, gene-informed cancer risk assessment, and preventative medicine. Since then, many syndromic endocrine neoplasias have proven to fall under this clinically utile and actionable model, such as those caused by mutations in RET, VHL, or SDHB-D. The familial risk associated with epithelial (nonmedullary) thyroid carcinoma is among the highest of all solid tumors, yet only a few highly penetrant heritable epithelial thyroid cancer syndrome exist. This is illustrated by Cowden syndrome, a difficult-to-recognize autosomal dominant disorder characterized by breast, thyroid, and other cancers, caused by germline mutations in PTEN, encoding a phosphatase, and minorly, SDHB/SDHD variants.

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