Tel.: 514-340-3213 

Dr. William D. Foulkes

Head, Cancer Genetics Laboratory, Lady Davis Institute
Director of the Program in Cancer Genetics, McGill University

Dr. Will Foulkes is Director of the Program in Cancer Genetics, based at McGill University in the Departments of Oncology and Human Genetics. He is also head of the Cancer Genetics Laboratory at the Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research. He is a James McGill Professor of Medicine, Human Genetics and Oncology at McGill University, and holds a FRSQ Chercheur national award. His work has focused on inherited susceptibility to cancer, mainly of the breast and colorectum. He is a clinician, who has been in charge of clinical cancer genetics at all McGill-affiliated hospitals since 1996.

He is best known for his work on the clinico-pathological features of hereditary breast cancer, for his discovery of a founder mutation in MSH2 in the Ashkenazim, and for his identification of a founder mutation in the breast cancer susceptibility gene PALB2. He has also collaborated extensively with researchers around the world to better understand the genetics of breast, colorectal, prostate, pancreatic, and ovarian cancer.

He has been the scientific organizer of the Montreal-based biennial Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer conference since its inception in 2005. At the last conference, over 400 attended the three-day meeting.

Major Research Activities

Dr. Foulkes’ lab works on several aspects of inherited susceptibility to cancer, often generating data from individuals and families that present at his clinic. He is particularly interested in following up single families with unusual phenotypes. He is currently working on susceptibility to breast, colon, and ovarian neoplasms.

Recent Publications

Foulkes WD. Inherited susceptibility to common cancers. N Engl J Med. 2008 Nov 13;359(20):2143-53.

Chong G, Jarry J, Marcus V, Thiffault I, Winocour S, Monczak Y, Drouin R, Latreille J, Australie K, Bapat B, Gordon PH, Giguère Y, Gologan A, Galiatsatos P, Jass JR, Wong N, Zaor S, Palma L, Kasprzak L, Tischkowitz M, Foulkes WD. High frequency of exon deletions and putative founder effects in French Canadian Lynch syndrome families. Hum Mutat. 2009 Aug;30(8):E797-812.

Li L, Biswas K, Habib LA, Kuznetsov SG, Hamel N, Kirchhoff T, Wong N, Armel S, Chong G, Narod SA, Claes K, Offit K, Robson ME, Stauffer S, Sharan SK, Foulkes WD. Functional redundancy of exon 12 of BRCA2 revealed by a comprehensive analysis of the c.6853A>G (p.I2285V) variant. Hum Mutat. 2009 Nov;30(11):1543-50.


Dr. Will Foulkes is a well-known clinician-scientist who has made significant contributions in the field of inherited susceptibility to cancer.

His group identified the first Ashkenazi Jewish founder mutation in a Lynch syndrome gene.

His group helped to characterize BRCA1-related breast cancer as “basal-like."

His current focus is on identifying novel cancer susceptibility genes.

He has been co-organiser of the biennial HBOC conference since its inception in 2005.

Important Links

McGill Program in Cancer Genetics
Support research at the Lady Davis Institute - Jewish General Hospital