New director to expand cancer genetic counseling services at UCLA


Mariana Niell-Swiller has joined UCLA Health as the director of cancer genetic counseling. She has almost 15 years of experience in the field, including clinical, leadership and research roles.

Genetic counselors assist people in understanding their risk for cancer and other diseases that may have been inherited based on their family histories. They also help people and their families determine the best course of action to prevent or treat diseases. For people with cancer, genetic testing for mutations in inherited genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2 has become standard of care since these results can determine the potential effectiveness of new targeted therapies.

In her role as director of cancer population genetics at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, Dr. Beth Karlan has been a champion for increasing access to genetic counseling for cancer patients and their families at UCLA Health. In partnership with Karlan, Niell-Swiller will implement new workflows to reach previously underserved patients and provide broader access to genetic counseling among people who have cancer.

This fall the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA launched its master of science program in genetic counseling. This program will train students to learn how to help patients facing complex choices because of their genetic makeup. Karlan and Niell-Swiller will be instrumental in training these students in cancer genetic counseling through internships and didactics.