Ashkenazi Women & the BRCA Gene


Who are Ashkenazi Jews?

Ashkenazic Jews are the Jews of France, Germany, and Eastern Europe and their descendants. The adjective “Ashkenazic” and corresponding nouns, Ashkenazi (singular) and Ashkenazim (plural) are derived from the Hebrew word “Ashkenaz,” which is used to refer to Germany. Most American Jews today are Ashkenazim, descended from Jews who emigrated from Germany and Eastern Europe from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. The pages in this site are written from the Ashkenazic Jewish perspective.

What is the BRCA gene? 

Women who carry the BRCA gene mutation face a much greater chance of developing breast and / or ovarian cancers. More than 200 mutations have been identified, three of which are typical to Ashkenazi Jews. There is a 2.5% risk of carrying this mutation.


1 in 40

Ashkenazi Jews – men and women – that carry a BRCA gene mutation


Ashkenazi Jewish women that are diagnosed with breast cancer in the US who have a BRCA 1 or 2 mutation

1 in 800

People in the general population that have a BRCA 1 or 2 mutation


Jewish male breast cancer cases that carry the germline BRCA mutation


The average woman in the United States has about a 12 percent risk of developing breast cancer over a 90-year life span

15% to 40%

Women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation have a lifetime risk of 15 to 40 percent for developing ovarian cancer


The 5-year survival rate for relatives of carriers of BRCA1 mutations


Hormone-fueled breast cancer cells halted with new approach

Researchers have found a way to deplete breast cancer cells of energy and thus halt their growth. The findings may one day help to alleviate treatment-resistant breast cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), 2 in 3 cancers are hormone-driven, meaning breast cancer cells possess proteins that act as hormone receptors and feed off of estrogen and progesterone.

These hormones help the breast cancer to spread, so hormone therapy aims to prevent cancer from spreading or recurring by blocking the hormone receptors.

New research — carried out by scientists from the Karolinska Institutet and Science for Life Laboratory in Solna, Sweden — offers new hope, as the team discovered a way to starve hormone-fueled breast cancer cells of energy. This may lead to better drugs in the future.

The researchers found a protein that helps breast cancer cells to get the energy they need to proliferate. They also found a compound that inhibits this protein. They discovered that NUDT5 is used by breast cancer cells to create energy in their nucleus. The nuclear energy thus created is used to drive cancer-causing gene expression.

This compound is called TH5427, and laboratory experiments revealed that it successfully acts as an NUDT5 inhibitor, stopping the spread of breast cancer cells.

The authors summarize their findings, saying, “Utilizing these state-of-the-art techniques led us to discover TH5427, a potent and cell-active NUDT5 inhibitor that can be used to further understand the role of NUDT5 in biological systems.”

Ultimately, Prof. Helleday and his colleagues hope to be moving toward human clinical trials.

The researchers hope that their findings will help to treat not only breast cancer, but hopefully other forms of cancer, as well.

The 2018 Cheryl Diamond NYC 5K Schlep: Breast and Ovarian Cancer Run / Walk will take place on Sunday, June 3, 2018 in Battery Park, NYC, starting at 9:00 am.

Each year, American Friends of Rabin Medical Center holds theCheryl Diamond NYC 5K Schlep: Breast and Ovarian Cancer Run / Walk, a certified 5K that brings together hundreds of participants from the New York tri-state area, and across the USA and overseas, ranging in age from 6 – 90 years old, bound together in solidarity to raise the hopes of those battling breast and ovarian cancer as well as awareness and funds to help further research and treatment.

The NYC 5K Schlep Run / Walk benefits a BRCA Multidisciplinary Clinic to serve women at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer and funds research to find cures for breast and ovarian cancers. The NYC 5K SCHLEP Run / Walk also supports studies in connection to BRCA mutation carriers.




Source: Article from Medical News Today.

Rabin Medical Center News


News from Rabin Medical Center – Obesity in Adolescence Linked With Subsequent Colorectal Cancer

Overweight and obesity in adolescence were associated with an increased risk for colon cancer later in life among both men and women, according to the results of a recent study. Obesity, but not overweight, was also linked to subsequent rectal cancer.

Researchers were extending previous work looking at the association between body mass index (BMI) measured at adolescence and risk for colorectal cancer (CRC) among men. The study was expanded to include women and by updating the cancer registry linkage data to increase the number of CRC cases.

“The association between adolescent BMI and CRC among men has been addressed in several studies, some reporting little or no association, a possible association, or a positive association,” wrote Zohar Levi, MD, of the Rabin Medical Center, Tikva, Israel, and colleagues.

According to the researchers, few previous studies have reported on colon and rectal cancers separately.

“Our data indicate that the risk for rectal cancer may be increased only for obese adolescents, and this suggests possibly different mechanisms for colon cancer and rectal cancer,” the researchers wrote. “This might be supported by reports of a differential impact of obesity on the risk of adenomas and may provide some explanation for the inconsistencies concerning the association of BMI with rectal cancer in women reported in several studies.”


Israel Sends Aid To Flood-Battered Texas


Humanitarian aid organizations IsraAID and iAID send teams to help clear debris, clean ruined homes and offer psychological support to Harvey survivors.

Two teams of Israeli aid experts are on their way to Texas to provide vital relief and psychosocial support to the thousands of people who have lost everything in the catastrophic Tropical Storm Harvey.

The storm, which first hit Texas on Sunday and continues to plague the beleaguered state with pounding rain, has left nine dead, and tens of thousands of people homeless as flood waters have poured through city streets in Houston, the fourth-largest city in the United States. The storm is thought to have affected 6.8 million people in 18 countries, a quarter of the Texas population.

Humanitarian aid organization IsraAID aims to provide a two-stage response to the disaster, focusing on helping remove debris and clean homes in the wake of the catastrophic flooding, and offering psychosocial trauma support to shocked residents.

“In crises with large-scale destruction, national and international aid efforts typically focus on practical, physical support, with limited resources allocated to the mental and emotional rehabilitation of affected populations,” said Yotam Polizer, co-CEO of IsraAID.

iAID, an international aid organization based in Israel, is also sending a team of 9-10 Israeli relief professionals to offer support to the national guard and other non-governmental American aid groups, to help families and communities affected by the storm.

IsraAID, which is working closely with Jewish communities, the local government in Texas, and the Israeli Consul General, plans to deploy 5-7 experts from both Israel and the US, to offer psychological support to vulnerable population groups evacuated to shelters in Austin and Dallas.

They will create and facilitate child-friendly spaces within the shelters to help support homeless children, and offer psychological and emotional support and tools for both individuals and for community resilience-building.

The organization will also send a relief team to help local communities remove debris, clean out destroyed homes and help residents sift through the wreckage of former homes to salvage belongings.

IsraAID announced it will prioritize those who do not have insurance or the financial means to clear the debris, and those who are unable to clean up their homes for other reasons.

IsraAID has also sent disaster relief to the US following floods in Louisiana, the Carolinas, Denver and Detroit, hurricanes in Oklahoma, New York and New Orleans, and wildfires in Washington.


Coming of age, Israel biotech sector gets ready for market

The sale of Israeli drugmaker NeuroDerm to Japanese pharma giant Mitsubishi Tanabe for $1.1 billion last month in the largest ever purchase of an Israeli healthcare company, has put the spotlight on Israel’s biotech sector, where a number of other firms are gearing up for commercialization of their product.


NeuroDerm develops treatments for patients suffering from Parkinson’s disease, as well as other disorders related to the central nervous system.

The firm’s leading product candidate is not even on the market yet, but is in advanced clinical trials in both Europe and the United States. The product could hit the market as early as 2019.

The NeuroDerm deal, Anna Eldan of Israel Innovation Startup Authority said, “is the beginning of the coming of age of the Israeli biotech industry, and it is the result of a long-term government policy. We are very happy to see this kind o maturation, and there is still a lot of work to do.”

But, she added, “eventually out of these young innovative companies the next big Israeli pharma firm will emerge.”

“We are at an exciting transition point, and moving from being a research and development firm, based in Israel, to an international commercial firm,” Gamida Cell’s CEO Yael Margolin, who has headed the privately held company for the past 12 years, said in an interview earlier this month. Pharma giant Novartis is one of the investors in the firm.

As shown in the IATI report, over the last decade, Israeli life sciences companies have raised more than $6.7 billion on NASDAQ exchange, with $5 billion raised since 2013. The Nasdaq remains the main source for public offerings for Israeli life sciences companies, with more public offerings and more money raised than on all other exchanges combined, including on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE).

The shares of 60 life sciences firms are listed on TASE, the report said, of which 21, like BiondVax and RedHill, are dual-listed on foreign markets. These include biotechnology firms, holding companies that invest in life sciences technologies and firms, medical device companies and pharma companies.

The Israeli government continues to focus on providing a support network for R&D through various programs providing grants and other incentives, the IATI report said.



New Breast Cancer Treatment Options


New breast cancer blood test could improve treatment options in more serious cases

‘Liquid biopsy’ detects tumor DNA and can track alterations in 13 different genes.


Women with advanced stages of breast cancer could receive potentially life-extending personalized treatment after taking a new blood test that detects tumor DNA.

The test, known as a “liquid biopsy”, can detect and track alterations in 13 different genes, including some of the most important drivers of the disease.

For patients whose cancer has spread beyond the breast and nearby glands – the most deadly stage of the disease – the new test could be used to improve and individualize their treatment as the disease progresses, researchers have said.

Around 10 percent of women have metastatic, or stage four, breast cancer at the time of their diagnosis, according to cancer support charity Macmillan. The average survival rate is around two years.

This is the first time scientists have been able to analyze two kinds of acquired DNA mutation in a single blood test. In addition, the test can spot mutations in the estrogen receptor gene ESR1, linked to resistance to anti-hormone therapies such as aromatase inhibitors.

“This study represents proof of concept, and further validation is now needed to confirm the clinical usefulness of this test before any test could be rolled out…The researchers may have developed a way to track breast cancer as it grows, allowing doctors to act swiftly and give patients the treatments that are right for them as early as possible. On top of that, such a tailored approach could spare patients receiving drugs, and the side effects that go with them, that aren’t likely to work.”


Tumor Test Helps Identify Which Breast Cancers Don’t Require Extra Treatment


Tumor Test Helps Identify Which Breast Cancers Don’t Require Extra Treatment

For years, doctors have focused on detecting breast cancer at the earliest possible moment after a tumor develops so treatment can start right away. But more and more studies are showing many small, early tumors don’t present a danger.

So, when is it safe to remove a tumor but skip additional treatments like tamoxifen, chemotherapy and radiation?

study published Thursday in JAMA Oncology suggests that it may be possible to distinguish fairly precisely between “ultra low-risk” tumors that are unlikely to cause problems and those that are more aggressive and likely to spread — thus allowing some patients to avoid unnecessary treatments.

Researchers in the U.S. and Sweden used a diagnostic test called MammaPrint to measure a tumor’s genomic “fingerprint” and compared it with survival time after a tumor was removed. They say they were able to pinpoint patients who had a very low risk of death from breast cancer — even up to 20 years after the first diagnosis.

MammaPrint is a genomic test that looks at a set of 70 genes in a tumor, showing how the genes are controlling the production of the proteins that drive a tumor’s growth. A genomic test of the tumor, which measures how genes are functioning, differs from other genetic tests that determine someone’s hereditary risk of cancer.

The tumor test was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2007 to predict whether an existing cancer has the ability to spread. It’s priced at $4,200 and is covered by some insurance plans in the U.S.



Effective Immunotherapy Steps Closer With New T Cell Study


Effective Immunotherapy Steps Closer With New T Cell Study 

In a recent study, researchers report some progress in developing an immunotherapy for ovarian cancer. However, they also outline the considerable challenges that remain before the treatment can be made effective for this and other cancers that have solid tumors.

The researchers presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Association of Cancer Research in Washington, D.C. Estimates from the American Cancer Society  suggest that, in the United States, around 22,440 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer and approximately 14,000 will die from the disease during 2017.

The cancer begins in cells of the ovaries – reproductive glands found only in women. Each woman normally has two ovaries, situated on each side of the uterus inside the pelvis. The ovaries produce eggs that travel to the uterus through the fallopian tubes.

Dr. Kristin Anderson, an immunotherapy researcher who presented the findings at the meeting, says that while ovarian cancer is not as common in the U.S. as other cancers with solid tumors, it has a low rate of survival and a high rate of relapse. The main reason is that the cancer does not cause obvious symptoms and is often advanced by the time it is diagnosed.

Immunotherapy is a relatively new area of medicine that is showing promising results in the treatment of cancer. The approach uses the patient’s own immune system to fight disease.

The new study concerns a method called adoptive T cell transfer. In this approach, immune cells called T cells are taken from the patient’s own blood and trained to target and destroy cancer cells. Then, after multiplying in the laboratory, the primed cells are returned to the patient’s body. Sometimes donor cells are used instead.

The team hopes to start a human clinical trial of adoptive T cell transfer for ovarian cancer in the next few years.