FORT WORTH -- In the past five years, thousands of North Texans have come to Moncrief Cancer Institute for genetic testing to see if they are predisposed to certain cancers. About 850 have come back positive.
Genetic testing and the counseling that follows is one of the services offered at the institute, which dedicated its new $22 million facility at 400 Magnolia Ave. on Monday.
Two of the 60,000-square-foot building's four floors are finished and in operation, with the other two available for future growth.
Other services include cancer screening, counseling for cancer survivors and research. About 55 people will work at the organization when the last few open positions are filled, said Lori Drew, executive director.
Among that staff is Linda Robinson, supervisor in Moncrief's genetic counseling service.
About 50 human genes have been found that are related to cancer development, Robinson said.
"We can do blood tests to tell if you have a genetic predisposition" to certain cancers, she said. If one of the suspect genes is found, patients can learn about measures to take, such as heightened testing, surveillance or surgery to prevent a cancer from beginning.
"Shortly, we'll be looking at the entire genome," Robinson said, looking for clues into what caused particular tumors to develop in a person.
Genetics counselor Pia Banerji Summerour said that far from being afraid to confront the likelihood of cancer, "most people, more than 90 percent, want as much information as we can tell them" about their condition.
The impact of the disease was apparent at the building dedication when Father David Bristow, before offering a prayer, noted that he is a two-time cancer survivor. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said his father died of cancer, and a number of audience members stood when asked if there were other cancer survivors in the room.
Moncrief Cancer Institute will collaborate with other researchers "to develop more powerful tools" to detect and treat cancer, said Dr. Daniel Podolsky, president of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, with which Moncrief is affiliated.
The new facility is funded by Fort Worth oilman W.A. "Tex" Moncrief Jr., whose family has supported the organization since its start in 1958.
Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552