Associate Professor of Medicine
Pediatrics and Genetics
Director, Stanford Program for Clinical Cancer Genetics
Stanford University School of Medicine
Currently available gene panel tests for assessing the genetic risk of breast cancer are uninformative for most patients, even those with strong family histories. Emerging technologies allow inexpensive sequencing of multiple genes, but we do not know whether these tests will improve patient care. Using over 400 blood samples from high risk patients, Dr. Ford and his team are using a high-throughput, multi-gene sequencing technology to identify risk-associated gene variants in many breast cancer-related genes. They have identified a number of clinically relevant gene mutations (other than BRCA1 or BRCA2) associated with breast cancer risk in patients with a strong personal or family history. Major questions that need to be addressed include: how many and which genes should be screened for; are the results of screening sufficiently understood to guide intervention; and what is the best way to counsel patients about variants of low or moderate penetrance. In the coming year, Dr. Ford will extend his studies to better define the risk of these genes for breast cancer in large population-based registries and in extended family studies, and to determine molecular causality by assessing tumor genomic profiles and familial linkage studies. The results will have strong potential to guide the clinical use of emerging genetic tests to better inform patients on risk and preventive strategies.
Dr. Ford is a medical oncologist and geneticist at Stanford, devoted to studying the genetic basis of breast cancer development, treatment and prevention. He graduated from Yale where he received his MD in 1989. He trained clinically in Medicine and Oncology at Stanford followed by a research fellowship in Biological Sciences, and has been on the faculty at Stanford since 1998, currently as an Associate Professor of Medicine (Oncology), Pediatrics (Medical Genetics) and Genetics, and Director, Stanford Program for Clinical Cancer Genetics and Genomics.
Dr. Ford's goals are to understand the role of genetic changes in cancer genes in the risk and development of common cancers. He discovered that the p53 and BRCA1 tumor suppressor genes regulate DNA repair. He is using techniques for high-throughput genomic analyses of cancer to identify molecular signatures for targeted therapies, and whole-genome next-generation DNA sequencing to identify novel germline cancer susceptibility genes.
Dr. Ford's honors and awards include the Etta S. Chidsey Award in Cancer Research from Yale, NIH K08 Clinical Investigator Award, Second Annual Gerald B. Grindey Memorial Young Investigator Award - AACR, Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research Scholar Award, Doris Duke Foundation Clinical Scientist Award in Cancer Etiology and Pathogenesis, Burroughs-Wellcome Fund New Investigator Award in Toxicology, and the V Foundation Translational Research Award. Dr. Ford is an Editor for the journal PLoS Genetics, is on the Scientific Review Committee for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, and former Council President of the California Breast Cancer Research Program.