New Genetics Of Cancer Educational Website Is On-line

August 20, 1998

CHICAGO, Ill. -- Researchers at the Northwestern University Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer have developed a new website -- teach health professionals and the public about the genetic basis of cancer and new discoveries in the field of cancer genetics.

The website is designed to be a comprehensive educational program that provides a fundamental understanding of genetics, the principles of genetic testing and diagnosis, genetic counseling and cancer risk assessment.

The Lurie Cancer Center developed the website in response to a call from the National Cancer Institute for innovative strategies to expand education and training programs in genetic counseling and/or genetic risk factors related to cancer. Educational grants to the Lurie Cancer Center from the NCI helped fund the creation of the website.

The genetics of cancer website is the brainchild of genetics researcher Eugene Pergament, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Medical School and director of the reproductive genetics program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and Morris Fiddler, associate professor at the School for New Learning, DePaul University, Chicago.

Genes control the finely tuned process by which cells replicate and divide. When something goes wrong with this process, genetic mutations result.

Great advances in cancer research over the past 20 years have shown that all cancers, whether from inherited risk or not, are the result of genetic mutations.

But the rapid expansion of basic and clinical research in cancer genetics--and related psychosocial, ethical and legal considerations--often exceeds the knowledge and experience of most health professionals.

"Fortunately, the 'Information Superhighway,' has vastly greater capabilities to disseminate rapidly and widely up-to-date genetic information on specific forms of cancer," Pergament said.

In turn, this information can be used to contribute to "accurate assessment and interpretation of risks and substantively advance understanding of health professionals and the public about the implications and appropriateness of genetic susceptibility testing," he said.

Fiddler believes that as access and familiarity with the Internet increases, "The more we can help each other develop understandable frameworks within which to organize new findings and interpretations."

"This was one of our intents for the site--to help several audience to make sense of things and keep the technology working for us," he said.

The genetics of cancer website features three educational levels specifically designed for 1) primary care physicians; 2) nurses, social workers, psychologists and health care educators; and 3) patients and the lay public. All three levels contain four modules on the genetics of cancer, the basis of molecular genetics, the genetic basis of disease and genetic counseling. They also include case scenarios and problem sets and moderated discussion groups, as well as linkages and other services.

Among the other features planned for the genetics of cancer website are a homepage accessible throughout the World Wide Web, a cancer genetic gopher service for those without access to the World Wide Web and cancer genetics list servers.

Northwestern University

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