Columbia launches new Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program

June 14, 2018
June Y. Hou, MD and Meghna Trivedi, MD
June Y. Hou, MD and Meghna S, Trivedi, MD

The Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Department of Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center have announced a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary initiative aimed at screening, preventing, diagnosing, and treating hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

Led by June Y. Hou, MD, a gynecologic cancer specialist and Assistant Professor of Ob/Gyn at CUIMC, and Meghna S. Trivedi, MD, a breast cancer specialist and Assistant Professor of Medicine at CUIMC, the initiative aims to empower women with knowledge about their individualized risk and to provide seamless integration of diagnostic testing, risk-reducing strategies, and clinical research trials to achieve a personalized strategy for cancer prevention and treatment.

The new program brings together the resources of a world-renowned academic institution, including cutting-edge genomic testing, clinical trials, and experts in hereditary cancers across different specialties. 

“Women at risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer need multidisciplinary collaboration to achieve the best outcomes,” said Jason D. Wright, MD, Chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at CUIMC. “We are proud to partner with Dr. Trivedi and clinicians from across the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center to address this significant need in order to advance women’s health.”

Columbia’s hereditary breast and ovarian cancer program focuses on screening and prevention services like ovarian/pelvic and breast imaging and counseling on risk-reducing lifestyle modifications, surgeries, supplements, and medications. Genetic testing and counseling offered in collaboration with the Clinical Genetics Program at CUIMC can help patients understand their personal risk factors for cancer after a thorough review of the patient’s family history and other factors.

For patients at increased risk for cancer, the program will also offer novel and cutting-edge screening and risk-modifying strategies through clinical trials.

June Y. Hou, MD

“Cancer care these days, especially at Columbia, is a personalized approach,” Dr. Hou said. “Precision medicine gives us the opportunity to individualize every person's care based on their unique genetic makeup and not treat all cancer as one type of disease. The field of gynecologic oncology is expanding - we're not here just for diagnosis and treatments, but also to provide screening, counseling and education to give our patients the best possible chance at preventing cancer.”

Approximately 5-10 percent of breast cancer and up to 25 percent of ovarian cancers are caused by a heritable genetic condition. The genes most commonly implicated in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer are BRCA1 and BRCA2. Women with a BRCA mutation have up to an 85 percent lifetime risk to develop breast cancer and up to a 64% chance to develop ovarian cancer.

After age, a significant family history is the strongest known risk factor for breast and ovarian cancer. While ovarian cancer is more rare than breast cancer, it is also the most lethal of all female pelvic cancers combined.

Women at risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer usually have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • A relative diagnosed with breast cancer / ovarian cancer in multiple generations
  • A relative diagnosed with cancer at a young age (under age 50 for breast cancer, under age 50 for ovarian cancers)
  • A relative with both breast and ovarian cancer
  • A relative with bilateral breast cancer
  • A relative with a history of cancers related to a hereditary cancer syndrome, such as ovarian cancer, pancreatic cancer, male breast cancer, or melanoma
  • Personal history of triple-negative breast cancer
  • Certain ethnic backgrounds (such as Ashkenazi Jewish)