Kenan Onel, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

Director, Pediatric Familial Cancer Clinic

Dr. Kenan Onel, Director of the Pediatric Familial Cancer Clinic and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, is an expert in pediatric and other familial genetic cancer syndromes. Dr. Onel cares for people who may be at an increased risk for cancer, and families in which cancer is common. The goal of his clinical practice is to assess individual and familial cancer risk, and then to develop individualized cancer prevention strategies for those found to be at increased risk. As a physician scientist, Dr. Onel’s research focuses on the genetics of cancer susceptibility by identifying genes and genetic markers that alter cancer risk. These markers may be directly translatable into simple blood tests by which the genetic contribution to cancer risk can be determined. His research may also lead to the discovery of targets for new molecularly-engineered cancer treatments.

His research program encompasses two broad areas of study. Firstly, he is investigating genetic variation associated with second cancers, which are a devastating but rare late consequence of antecedent treatment with cytotoxic therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These are not relapses or metastases of existing cancers, but new primary cancers induced by exposure to these DNA damaging agents. Specifically, Dr. Onel focuses his efforts on therapy-related acute myeloid leukemia (t-AML) and second malignant neoplasms (SMNs) following Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). Secondly, he is investigating novel methods by which genetic factors “driving” the development of cancer and response to therapy can be distinguished from the myriad other genetic alterations commonly found in cancer.

Dr. Onel’s research and clinical programs synergize towards the ultimate goal of identifying individuals and families most at risk for cancer, and then using their innate genetic endowment either to implement effective cancer prevention strategies, or to design cancer therapies that maximize the likelihood of cure and minimize the likelihood of toxic side effects. Dr. Onel has lectured extensively and authored numerous papers on his research.

Selected Publications from 2010 – 2011

  • Cozen W, Li D, Best T, Van den Berg DJ, Cortessis VK, Skol AD, Mack TM, Glaser SL, Gourraud PA, Weiss LM, Nathwani BN, Bhatia S, Schumacher FR, Edlund CK, Hwang A, Strong LC, Robison LL, Conti DV, Onel K.  A genome-wide meta-analysis of nodular sclerosis Hodgkin lymphoma identifies risk loci at 6p21.32.  Blood [in revision], 2011.
  • Best T, Skol AD, Onel K.  The Translational Potential of Genomics in Cancer.  ASCO Educational Book  [in press], 2011.
  • Best T, Li D, Skol AD, Kirchhoff T, Jackson SA, Yasui Y, Bhatia S, Strong LC, Domchek SM, Nathanson KL, Olopade O, Mack TM, Conti DV, Offit K, Cozen W, Robison LL, Onel K.  Variants at 6q21 implicate PRDM1 in the etiology of therapy-induced second malignancies after Hodgkin lymphoma.  Nature Med [Epub ahead of print], 2011.
  • Sucheston L, Witonsky DB, Hastings D, Yildiz O, Clark VJ, Di Rienzo A, Onel K. Natural selection and functional genetic variation in the p53 pathway. Hum Mol Gene 20:1502-1508, 2011.
  • Churpek JE, Garcia JS, Madzo J, Jackson SA, Onel K, Godley LA. Identification and molecular characterization of a novel 3′ mutation in RUNX1 in a family with familial platelet disorder. Leuk Lymphoma 51:1931-1935, 2010.
  • Tan YH, Krishnaswamy S, Nandi S, Kanteti R, Vora S, Onel K, Hasina R, Lo FY, El-Hashani E, Cervantes G, Robinson M, Hsu HS, Kales SC, Lipkowitz S, Karrison T, Sattler M, Vokes EE, Wang YC, Salgia R. CBL is frequently altered in lung cancers: its relationship to mutations in MET and EGFR tyrosine kinases. PLoS One5:e8972, 2010.


  • Godley LA, Cunningham J, Dolan ME, Huang RS, Gurbuxani S, McNerney ME, Larson RA, Leong H, Lussier Y, Onel K, Odenike O, Stock W, White KP, Le Beau MM. An integrated genomic approach to the assessment and treatment of acute myeloid leukemia. Semin Oncol 38:215-224, 2011.
  • Onel K, Onel K. Response to “Care needs to be taken when reviewing malignancy data reported from observational studies” by Mariette, et al. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken) [Epub ahead of print], 2010.
  • Churpek JE, Onel K. Heritability of hematologic malignancies: from pedigrees to genomics. Hematol Oncol Clin North Am 24:939-972, 2010.
  • Onel KB, Onel K. Anti-tumor necrosis factor therapy and cancer risk in patients with autoimmune disorders. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken) 62:1024-1028, 2010.

Selected Presentations

  • “A Genome-Wide Analysis of Second Malignancies after Hodgkin Lymphoma”
    Invited Speaker at the Interlymph Consortium Annual Meeting
    Washington, DC
    April 2010
  • “Novel Genomic Strategies to Identify Genetic Biomarkers in Cancer”
    Invited Speaker at the University of Southern California
    Los Angeles, CA
    August 2010
  • “When a Child Gets Cancer Are the Parents at Risk?”
    Invited Speaker at the Resurrection Medical Center
    Chicago, IL
    September 2010
  • “Novel Genomic Strategies to Identify Genetic Biomarkers in Cancer”
    Invited Speaker at the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute
    Bethesda, MD
    October 2010
  • “From Genomic Questions to Clinical Answers in Cancer”
    Invited Speaker at the Indiana University School of Medicine
    Indianapolis, IN
    December 2010
  • “Variants at 6q21 Implicate PRDM1 in the Etiology of Therapy-Induced Second Malignancies After Hodgkin Lymphoma”
    Invited Speaker at the Fourth International Symposium on Secondary Leukemia and Leukemogenesis
    Rome, Italy
    March 2011
  • “Genetic Predispositions to Secondary Cancers”
    Invited Speaker at the ASCO Annual Meeting
    Chicago, IL
    June 2011
  • “Second Cancers following Hodgkin Lymphoma: A New Paradigm for Cancer Etiology”
    Invited Speaker at the Interlymph Consortium Annual Meeting
    Cagliari, Italy
    June 2011