Hereditary cancer syndromes

World J Clin Oncol. 2023 Feb 24;14(2):40-68. doi: 10.5306/wjco.v14.i2.40.


Hereditary cancer syndromes (HCSs) are arguably the most frequent category of Mendelian genetic diseases, as at least 2% of presumably healthy subjects carry highly-penetrant tumor-predisposing pathogenic variants (PVs). Hereditary breast-ovarian cancer and Lynch syndrome make the highest contribution to cancer morbidity; in addition, there are several dozen less frequent types of familial tumors. The development of the majority albeit not all hereditary malignancies involves two-hit mechanism, i.e. the somatic inactivation of the remaining copy of the affected gene. Earlier studies on cancer families suggested nearly fatal penetrance for the majority of HCS genes; however, population-based investigations and especially large-scale next-generation sequencing data sets demonstrate that the presence of some highly-penetrant PVs is often compatible with healthy status. Hereditary cancer research initially focused mainly on cancer detection and prevention. Recent studies identified multiple HCS-specific drug vulnerabilities, which translated into the development of highly efficient therapeutic options.

Keywords: Cancer predisposition; Cancer treatment; Germline pathogenic variants; Hereditary cancer syndromes; Next-generation sequencing.

Publication types

  • Review