While scientists have much more to learn about the genetics of cancer, we have many people to thank for opening up the field of inquiry. Thanks to the work of these individuals, we are now often able to identify the genetic risk for cancer and, in the process, help patients make informed decisions about how to proactively manage their risks.

Outside of the lab, there have also been several noteworthy personalities who have used their celebrity to educate, inform, and empower others who may currently be battling cancer or be at high-risk for developing it in the future.

In an effort to give these pioneers the credit they deserve, shown here are brief introductions to several important names in the field of hereditary cancers. While this list is not close to comprehensive (and will be updated over time), it does provide some insight into how much we’ve come to understand about this vital and life-saving branch of cancer research.