Cancer and Blood Disorders: Cancer Susceptibility

Cancer is rare in children. There are children, however, born with an increased risk of developing cancer. The Gill Center Cancer Susceptibility Program provides families of children with genetic predispositions to cancer with access to the most advanced genetic counseling, ongoing screening and oncology specialists. It is the only program of its kind in North Texas.

Cancer Predisposition Syndromes

There are a number of cancer predisposition syndromes. The most common is neurofibromatosis, for which we have a separate program (see page 10). Our staff also cares for families with other identified genetic syndromes, and family histories. Common cancer predisposition syndromes include:

  • Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome (BWS)
  • Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP)  
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasmia (MEN)  
  • Retinoblastoma  
  • Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome (VHL) 

Access to Experts

Children are referred to our program when they have a family history of cancer that suggests they could have an increased risk of cancer; when they have a family member diagnosed with genetic predisposition to development of cancer; or when they already have developed a cancer that is associated with an underlying genetic disorder. We manage the program in coordination with experts in cancer genetics from UT Southwestern.  

The Cancer Susceptibility Program provides: 

Cancer predisposition syndromes tend to run in families. Sometimes family members are aware, and other times they are not. Our genetic counselors are experts at educating families about the implications of cancer predisposition syndromes on various members of the family, including parents and siblings, as well as any future children of individuals with these syndromes. 

  • Genetics Counseling: We educate families on potential risks associated with certain cancer predisposition syndromes and options for prevention, early detection and treatment.
  • Genetic Testing: We perform genetic testing for a number of cancer susceptibilities in clinically appropriate situations.  
  • Screening: Our team manages a schedule of screenings appropriate for each cancer predisposition syndrome – ultrasounds, MRIs, blood tests, etc. – to monitor for early detection of tumors.  
  • Coordination of Care: We coordinate care with other specialists as needed, including gastroenterologists, ophthalmologists, and surgeons, to name a few. 

Program Highlights

  • Formally developed in 2011 and directed by Jonathan Wickiser, M.D., and Laura Klesse, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Evaluates 50 to 60 new children each year for suspected genetic cancer susceptibility  
  • The only pediatric cancer susceptibility program of its kind in North Texas