Heather Cheng

Heather Cheng
About Heather Cheng
  • Although family history is well-established as a risk factor for development of prostate cancer, scientists currently lack a comprehensive understanding of underlying genetic causes.
  • Dr. Heather Cheng is coordinating a large-scale program to identify potential highly hereditable genes that may only run in one in 200 families or less, but are exceptionally powerful and carry a high risk of developing prostate cancer—comparable to the BRCA genes implicated in families with frequent occurrence of breast and ovarian cancer.
  • After recruiting families with multiple relatives with early-onset or aggressive prostate cancer, gene and whole exome sequencing techniques will help detect shared genes and mutations.
  • In order to leverage this project’s potential immediate clinical impacts, Dr. Cheng is developing and sharing a first-in-field, web-based educational and counseling resources and information about research opportunities for these men, their families, and related healthcare providers.

What this means for patients: Prostate cancer is well known to have a strong inherited component, yet the causative genes are incompletely known. This unique project is poised to identify specific high-risk genes, offering a novel path to enhanced screening (i.e. early PSA screening for men in their 40s) and prevention of prostate cancer in family members.

Heather Cheng, MD, PhD

University of Washington


Peter Nelson, MD

Proposal Title

Identifying High-Penetrance Prostate Cancer Risk Genes: Leveraging Families for Next Generation Discovery and Prevention


2015 Kelsey Dickson–PCF Young Investigator