ATM whole gene deletion in an Italian family with hereditary pancreatic cancer: Challenges to cancer risk prediction associated with an 11q22.3 microdeletion Academic Article uri icon

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  • Hereditary pancreatic cancer has been attributed to variants of several cancer predisposition genes including ATM. While heterozygous pathogenic variants in the ATM gene are implicated as a cause of familial breast and pancreatic cancers to our knowledge ATM whole gene deletions have not been previously reported. We describe a contiguous gene deletion of the ATM locus in a multi-generation family of Italian descent with a strong family history of pancreatic cancer. A deletion of one copy of the entire ATM gene was identified by routine panel testing and further characterized by chromosomal microarray analysis. An 11q22.3 microdeletion of approximately 960 kb was identified that is predicted to result in loss of 10 genes including ATM. The deletion was identified in two additional family members including a presymptomatic daughter and an affected sibling. A normal disomic complement of the 11q22.3 region was detected in a third family member with a history of prostate and pancreatic cancer. Additional family members were not available for testing. Given available evidence that ATM haploinsufficiency can increase cancer risk, we predict that the observed copy number loss has likely contributed to hereditary cancer in this family. However, absence of the familial microdeletion in at least one affected family member suggests that ATM deletions are unlikely the sole contributing factor influencing tumor development in affected individuals. This case highlights 11q22.3 microdeletions of the ATM gene region as a possible risk factor for hereditary cancer, including pancreatic cancer. The same case provides a further cautionary tale for over interpretation of cancer risk associated tumor suppressor microdeletions and suggests that the variant may not be sufficient for tumor development or may modify the cancer risks associated with other, yet unidentified hereditary cancer genes.


  • Arts, Heleen H
  • Lynch, Lorrie
  • Grafodatskaya, Daria
  • Eng, Barry
  • Malloy, Lesley
  • Duck, John
  • White, Robyn
  • Woodside, Crystal
  • Bell, Kathleen
  • Zbuk, Kevin
  • McCready, Elizabeth

publication date

  • January 2020