Genes implicated in the devastating occurrences of cancers mostly arising in the breast and ovaries within certain 'high-risk' families were mapped and then cloned not even two decades ago. Some clairvoyant students of the subject anticipated that this 'assignation of risk' would herald a new era in the prevention, treatment and insights into pathogenesis of neoplasia. However, few would have predicted the accelerated pace of knowledge that ensued. The successive symposia that we held on this subject have given us a unique perspective on the extent of this progress. This supplement and the selected papers that have been assembled document accomplishments in genetics, epidemiology, early detection, treatment, preventive measures, as well as in the ethical and psychosocial consequences enveloping families at risk. It also reveals how the convergence of the laboratory, the clinic and the public across two continents is able to ignite discovery and its applications.
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