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Litton Heads Down the Path of Learning

Annual Report - Winter 2011

Her discovery will benefit breast cancer patients

By Laura Sussman

Jennifer Litton, M.D., loves learning. It’s a value instilled by her parents, who felt the greatest gift they could give her was the best education possible.

An English and history major, it wasn’t until after graduation while working for a breast cancer researcher by day and a homeless shelter’s health clinic by night that Litton decided to go back to school to pursue medicine.

It was also that learning experience that inspired Litton to specialize in breast cancer, with a specific interest in young women and those at greatest risk for the disease.

Women with BRCA at risk

In her research, Litton, assistant professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology, discovered that women with the deleterious gene mutation, BRCA, are diagnosed with the disease six years earlier than relatives who also had BRCA-related cancers. 

Jennifer Litton, M.D., focuses on women 
at greatest risk for breast cancer.
Photo: John Everett

The findings could have an impact on how women at highest risk are counseled and screened in the future.

“Currently, BRCA-positive women are counseled that they don’t need to worry about breast cancer until a certain age. Our findings show that we actually might see disease even earlier in future generations. We must change to best advise and care for women at greatest risk.”

Reported at the 2009 Breast Cancer Symposium.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center