Our Mission

In some populations, as many as one in forty women, have certain alterations in their basic genetic code, commonly referred to as BRCA mutations. In the absence of risk reducing strategies, these women have as high as a ninety percent life time risk of developing breast cancer, and a forty percent life time risk of developing ovarian cancer. BRCA mutations are inherited, so this change in the genetic code may be passed from parents to children, putting future generations at risk.

The Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Foundation (HBOC) is a community-oriented volunteer driven charity with a tripartite mission:

The Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Foundation seeks to fulfill its mission by working in cooperation with university or hospital based programs in cancer genetics, oncology, surgery, gynecology and plastic and reconstructive surgery.
The Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Foundation encourages families and their health care providers to become AWARE of their medical and disease histories and provides the resources to assess for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer risk.

The Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Foundation provides women and their families, who are found to be at risk for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer, the information and the professional support they need to cope with and ACT on their state.

The Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Foundation supports research that evaluates the outcomes of women with proven genetic risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as well as evaluation of different risk reducing modalities. HBOC equally supports basic science research related to the genetics of breast and ovarian cancer.

The HBOC Story

One of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave to me was the gift of having a sister. I was so lucky to have Marla in my life for 34 years…

As if it were yesterday, I can remember the phone call I received in the summer of 2001, telling me that Marla had cancer. She had found a lump in her breast about a month earlier and was very worried about it. We, her family, thought she was worrying for nothing. We had no breast cancer in our family, and a lump could be benign… Unfortunately, Marla was right.

Given that Marla was only 39, and knowing that some distant relatives (our father’s cousins) had had breast cancer, the doctors decided to test Marla to see if she had the “hereditary breast and ovarian cancer” gene mutation (BRCA). She did. What it meant for Marla was that the cancer would have a high chance of recurring in her breast(s) and/or her ovaries. When her chemotherapy and radiation were done, it was recommended she should have a mastectomy and oophorectomy (remove her ovaries). What it meant for our siblings and me is that we each now suddenly had a 50% chance of carrying this same gene mutation. Being female, if I also carry the gene, I would have up to an 80% chance of getting breast cancer and up to a 40% chance of getting ovarian cancer (which generally carries a worse prognosis). Those statistics were haunting.

I had some options, but none were great. I could opt not to be tested, and could be followed closely by a breast doctor and gynecological oncologist. In my mind this would mean that I was basically waiting to get cancer, and then would deal with it when it came, OR I could be tested. It was simple and obvious for me. I would be tested, and if I carried the BRCA gene mutation, I would have a bilateral preventative mastectomy and breast reconstruction and an oophorectomy.

I tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation in June 2002. Marla’s cancer treatment completed two months earlier, and her surgeries were done. She was looking great (new breasts and all), and though it might sound as if my own world were now caving in, the opposite was true. Though I was sad to have to deal with having the gene, I felt empowered with the knowledge, and strong about was I would soon do. My husband, a pediatrician, agreed with my decisions and knew where we were headed. He called my doctors and said it plain and simple “We understand that Joanne is positive, and we understand that given her options today, she has chosen to do preventative surgeries… but don’t tell us in 20 years that our daughter will have the same options.” When he hung up the phone, we knew we had to do something to help. We had to do something to give our children a better option. In addition, we had to make sure that other families would have the same type of information available to them, so that they also could understand their own risks and options. If the knowledge had empowered us to act, shouldn’t everyone be given that knowledge?

That summer (2002), Marla and I spoke a lot about her cancer, about me carrying the gene too and about our daughters. We knew something had to be done. We knew we had to help our daughters have better options. That summer, too, Marla found out that her cancer spread.

Marla died of her disease in March 2003, just after her forty-first birthday. Many people wonder if the outcome would have been different had Marla been empowered with the knowledge that she carried the Breast and Ovarian Cancer gene mutation before her cancer diagnosis. I know it would have been different…

The Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Foundation (HBOC) was established in April 2003 to ensure that the tragedy that has befallen our family does not happen again. HBOC’s message is simple: BE AWARE!!. The population at large must be made aware of the necessity to look into their family histories. Families and women who are at risk of being breast and ovarian cancer gene carriers must be provided with the knowledge and resources so that they can take action. Collaborative clinical and basic science research in the field must be supported and encouraged so that the future generations are not left with the same options that I was presented with.

The Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Foundation is the only organization of its kind in Canada. With a tripartite mission of ACTION, AWARENESS and RESEARCH, HBOC is the only organization of its kind in North America. HBOC was founded to help prevent a close friend or loved one from developing breast and ovarian cancer.

Joanne and Marla

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The HBOC Team

Board Of Directors
Marla Miller-Gross*
Honorary Founder

Joanne Miller

Harley Eisman MD

Willian Foulkes MB PhD
Liason to Medical Advisory Board

Ivan Gross

Marcia Gillman MD

Howard Rosenoff

Legal Counsel

Fred Wenger

Lynn Wolfe

Nora Wong MSc

Liason To Medical Advisory Board

* Deceased
Medical Advisory Board


William D. Foulkes MB PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Oncology and Human Genetics
McGill University
Director Program in Cancer Genetics – McGill University

Nora Wong MSc
Strohl Cancer Prevention Center
Jewish General Hospital
Montreal, Canada

Lucy Gilbert MD
Associate Professor
Division of Gynecology Oncology
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
MUHC - McGill Univeristy

Phil Gold CC,OQ,MD, PhD
Douglas G. Cameron Professor of Medicine
Professor of Physiology and Oncology
Executive Director – Clinical Research Center
MUHC- McGill University

Jean Latreille MD
Associate Professor
Division of Hematology-Oncology
University of Sherbrooke
Monteregie Comprehensive Cancer Care Centre

Lucie Lessard MD
Associate Professor
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
MUHC-McGill University

Francois Patenaude MD
Assistant Professor of Oncology
McGill University
Department of Hematology-Oncology
Jewish General Hospital

HBOC is led by a lay group of volunteers
with the guidance of a Medical Advisory Board
Health links are made available for educational purposes only.
This information should not be interpreted as medical advice.
All health information should be discussed with your health care provider.
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