Women's College Research Institute is a world leader in understanding the genetics of breast and ovarian cancer, and has also been the site of innovative work on women's experiences of cancer. Our researchers also study the connections between cancers and other illness, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit

Read our newsletter to learn about the latest hereditary cancer research updates.

The Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit, led by Tier 1 Canada Research Chair Dr. Steven Narod, is a world leader in the study of inherited cancers. With a particular focus on breast and ovarian cancers, Dr. Narod leads this WCRI team in the study of genetic mutations that are known to increase the risk of many cancers – most notably the BRCA1and BRCA2 mutations. Through its extensive research, publications, data collection, genetic testing programs and collaborations, the team has become an internationally renowned leader in identifying and developing effective strategies to prevent and manage these cancers women and families with a high inherited risk.

Virtual Hereditary Cancer Series

This free virtual series, run with The Peter Gilgan Centre for Women's Cancers at Women's College Hospital in partnership with the Canadian Cancer Society, highlighted the most relevant advances in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer research. Topics were tailored to women who carry a BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation. The series ran from January 2021 to November 2021. 

Missed a webinar? Watch it here.




Genetic Counseling

The Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit provides genetic testing and other clinical services to families who may carry a BRCA1/2 genetic mutation. Genetic counselors based at the unit offer information and support to women and their families about their options. Their interactions with patients have also helped inspire new research questions. By documenting the experiences of women living with a high risk of developing cancer, the team enhances and expands Cancer Information Registries and additional breast cancer resources, improving the world’s understanding of inherited breast and ovarian cancers. For example, WCRI’s findings have helped to justify the expense of offering MRI breast screening to high-risk women, and have documented the efficacy of specific surgical and medical interventions.

International Capacity Building

Dr. Steven Narod leads international collaborations with researchers studying the prevalence and impact of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. The incidence of these genes varies in many diverse populations around the world. Dr. Narod currently leads new research projects in Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Uruguay, Greece, Pakistan, Peru, and Costa Rica, focusing on both genetic and environment factors that contribute to higher than normal incidences of cancer in these specific populations. Since no genetic testing or genetic counselling is currently offered in these countries, these collaborations will ultimately help build research skills and the capacity to study cancer genetics.

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