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BCRF Grantee Since


Joan H. Marks, MS

Co-Director of The New York Breast Cancer Study
Sarah Lawrence College
Bronxville, New York

Current Research

The New York Breast Cancer Study (NYBCS) is a study to identify all genes responsible for inherited predisposition to breast cancer among women of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry and, by extension, among women of all ancestries. Dr. King and Ms. Marks use genomic sequencing to evaluate DNA from women who have developed breast cancer and from their relatives to identify inherited mutations in genes critical to the development of breast cancer. The goal of the NYBCS for the coming year is to identify mutations responsible for breast cancer in families of any ancestry with no inherited mutations in any of the known breast cancer genes. The study investigators believe that much of the remaining genetic risk of breast cancer, both in the NYBCS and among women generally, is due to mutations that lie in regions of the genome where they may alter expression of breast cancer genes, but cannot be detected by existing approaches. Therefore, Dr. King and Ms. Marks will integrate whole genome sequencing with bioinformatics tools and experimental biology to characterize other gene mutations associated with inherited breast cancer in high-risk families of any ancestry, as well as  early-onset patients of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry from the NYBCS. The goal is to search for cancer-predisposing mutations wherever they exist in the genome.


Joan H. Marks is Co-Director of The New York Breast Cancer Study, a research project examining the role of breast cancer genes in increasing the incidence of breast cancer in Ashkenazi Jewish women.

From 1972 to 1998 Joan Marks directed two unique graduate programs in health care at Sarah Lawrence College. The Human Genetics program, which she developed into the largest program in the country to educate genetic counselors, pioneered the field of genetic counseling and served as a model for 26 similar programs at universities in the U.S. and several others in Canada, Argentina, Australia, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, England and Israel. In 1979, Marks founded the Graduate Program in Health Advocacy at Sarah Lawrence, the first graduate degree program to train advocates who work within the complex health care delivery system in the U.S. to ensure the rights of patients and health care consumers.

Joan Marks has served on a number of advisory boards in medicine such as the American Board of Internal Medicine, the American Academy of Physicians and Patients, and the Women's Health Initiative of the National Institutes of Health. She has also chaired the Ethics Committee of the National Neurofibromatosis Association and is a member of their Clinical Care Advisory Board. She is the author of The Genetic Connection: How To Protect Your Family Against Genetic Disease and editor of Advocacy in Health Care: The Silent Constituency.

In 2003 Joan Marks became the first woman and first non-MD to receive the Excellence in Human Genetics Education Award, presented by the American Society of Human Genetics. In April, 2006, in recognition of her "enduring contributions to Sarah Lawrence College, and of her legacy as pioneer, educator, mentor, advocate and leader in genetic counseling," the College formally named its human genetics program the Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics. X’s indicate no changes