In the past d3ecade, significant progress has been made in understanding the genetic component of familial cancers.Genes associated with familial colon and breast cancers have recently been isolated and molecular diagnostic tests are expected to become available in the near future. Clinicians now have the opportunity to recognize and counsel individuals with elevated risk of cancer by identifying risk factors and genes associated with cancer predisposition. The rapid advances in molecular technology are a direct challenge to the medical community and cancer centers to supply specialized clinical services for familial cancers. We sought to ascertain the activities of cancer centers in the development of programs and the provision of genetic services for familial cancer. We surveyed 41 centers with National Cancer Institute (NCI) cancer center support grants. One half of the centers responding (17 of 34) reported that they provide some genetic services for familial cancer. About one half of these 17 centers (eight [57%] of 14; the three remaining clinics that responded had incomplete information on this indicator) see a variety of patient types on a small scale (fewer than 100 patients per year), and most provide four basic clinical evaluations: medical evaluation, cancer risk assessment, genetic counseling, and pedigree analysis. Staffing of each center varied widely, as did the types of screening services offered (including molecular diagnostic testing). Several centers (six [35%] of 17) indicated that they were in the developmental stages for serving familial cancer patients, and many seem to be increasing their activities in this area. The remaining 17 NCI-supported centers that responded, however, currently provide no genetic services for familial cancers. The results of this survey suggest that there is interest in developing clinical programs for familial cancers by NCI-supported cancer centers, but most of these programs are in developmental stages. A base line has been established to monitor future progress for the provision of cancer genetic services. [J Natl Cancer Inst 1995; 87:1446-55].
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
While all of these centers received financial support from NCI cancer center support grants, all were funded by other sources as well. Fourteen centers obtained financial support from patient charges, nine received institutional support, four received support from private and/or institutional foundations, and four obtained support from other sources (grants). The mean number of sources of support (not including NCI cancer center support grants) was 1.8. Centers were also asked to indicate the percentage of support provided by each source, along with financial information about patient charges and costs, but responses were too limited for any meaningful evaluation.