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Breast Cancer Update: Early Detection and Treatment
October Is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
BY DIANE ISSENBERG, Health & Wellness Co-team Leader
Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in women. There are over 2.5 million women who are breast cancer survivors (women who have been treated or who are currently being treated.) As a breast cancer survivor, of over twenty years, I know first-hand the importance of early detection, a correct diagnosis, and treatment options. Equally important is finding out the "right" facts about breast cancer. Over the years, new techniques and modalities are the result of dedicated researchers and physicians. Israeli researchers, led by Dr. Asher Salmon, then Senior Oncologist at Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center and team member, Professor Tamar Peretz, Director of Hadassah's Sharrett Institute of Oncology developed a blood test that reveals it is possible to predict the presence of harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutations in otherwise healthy women, using a novel technology called gene expression profiling. Women with a mutation in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, especially individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, have a significantly increased risk for developing breast or ovarian cancer. For many of those at risk, the disease may develop at an early age.
The only other test available to detect the mutation is full gene sequencing. However, as Dr. Salmon points out, it is "expensive, time consuming and, in many cases, lacks clear and decisive information for making a clinical decision." Many times, it cannot be determined if the mutation is neutral or harmful. Hadasit, Hadassah's technology transfer arm, identified the economic and scientific potential of this new technology developed by the Israeli team, protected it with a patent, and commercialized it to Biogene, a daughter company of Micromedic, who is working on developing a diagnostic kit based on the research.
Newly published research last month shows that taking Tamoxifen is tied to a sharply reduced risk of a second breast cancer among women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene. Some women will opt to have their breasts removed preemptively, which reduces breast cancer risk by more than 95 percent. Other women may choose to have their ovaries removed, which cuts breast cancer risk in half. The new findings suggest taking Tamoxifen may be another breast cancer prevention option for those women. In addition, those who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation who have NOT developed breast cancer may want to consider taking Tamoxifen as well. The American Society of Clinical Oncology says a 5-year course of Tamoxifen should be discussed for women age 35 and older who are at an increased risk of breast cancer. In light of these new findings, women with these mutations should review their cancer risk management options with their specialist.
October is breast cancer awareness month. See CHECK IT OUT FOR ADULTS® and learn how to do breast self-examination.
Determination of Molecular Markers for BRCA1 and BRCA2 Heterozygosity Using Gene Expression Profiling