The European paediatric onco-genetics community pays tribute to Professor Thierry Frébourg


Dear Colleagues and Friends,

The paediatric onco-genetics community is deeply saddened by the passing away of our dear colleague and friend Professor Thierry Frébourg.

Thierry Frébourg was one of the most eminent members of the French Genetic and Cancer group. After a post-doctoral fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, he returned to France and created the genetics department in Rouen University Hospital including a genetic laboratory, a laboratory devoted to somatic analysis of tumours and a department of clinical genetics. At the same time, he created a small research group, which became one of the most active French teams in the domain of genetic predisposition to cancer.

One of his main field of interest was the Li Fraumeni syndrome. His interest for this syndrome began during his post-doctoral fellowship in Boston during the time that the link between Li-Fraumeni syndrome and germline TP53 pathogenic variants was identified by David Malkin and Steven Friend. The close relationships he created with David Malkin in this period resulted in a long-lasting friendship between them as well as a fruitful collaboration in the field of Li-Fraumeni syndrome.  Through his leadership, he created the French Li-Fraumeni network, gathering the main players in the domain of clinical genetics, molecular genetics and Paediatric and medical oncology. With his curious, lively, and enthusiastic temperament, he explored with his team multiple aspects of the Li-Fraumeni syndrome prudently and carefully seeking the best patient outcome. He was one of the earliest members of the International Li-Fraumeni Syndrome Association. More recently, he was very happy that a national monthly multidisciplinary meeting devoted to Li-Fraumeni syndrome patients was created in which he was very active. Besides the Li-Fraumeni syndrome, he was one of the major actors in the fields of genetic predisposition to cancer, one of the founder members of the GENTURIS group.

He was a brilliant teacher and each of you may remember the clarity and the dynamism of his presentations. He marked generations of students by hammering out the great messages of genetics from his clinical experience and by asking from the outset the basis of ethical reflection. For many of his students, he played this role of mentor and many chose to embrace genetics after crossing his path.

He was also a wonderful leader for his team deploying energy to structure, innovate, build, bring together with a single motto: defending excellence. Besides his scientific qualities, he was a great doctor offering admirable support to his patients.

He held high the values ​​of probity, public service, equity of access to care and commitment to the service of the community.

We have lost a friend, a great doctor, a great scientist, an exceptional man. Rouen and the French genetics community are mourning. Today our thoughts are with his family, especially his wife and children.


Laurence Brugières, Gustave Roussy Cancer Canter, Villejuif, France

Franck Bourdeaut, SIREDO, Institut Curie, Paris, France

Gareth Evans, Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine, St Mary's Hospital, Manchester, UK

Christian Kratz, Hannover Medical School, Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology and Rare Disease Program, Hannover, Germany