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Free BRCA1/2 screening at Women’s College Hospital for Ashkenazi women, part of ongoing study

October 20, 2014

Dr. Steven Narod
Dr. Steven Narod

Ashkenazi Jewish women living in Ontario are invited to Women’s College Hospital (WCH) later this month for free screening for BRCA1/2 mutations associated with breast cancer. This event is part of an ongoing study, led by Dr. Steven Narod and Kelly Metcalfe, PhD, to determine how commonly BRCA1/2 gene mutations occur within Jewish populations.

“Ultimately, we would like to identify women with a genetic predisposition to developing cancer who might otherwise not come to the attention of the medical community. If detected early, these women can benefit from preventative care and screening,” said Dr. Narod, director of the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit at Women's College Research Institute.

Free BRCA1/2 Screening Event
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. • Oct. 30, 2014
Where: Main Lobby • 76 Grenville Street

This free event, which runs from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Oct. 30 at WCH’s main lobby at 76 Grenville St., is open to all Ashkenazi Jewish women, from across the province, between 20 and 70 years of age. Dr. Narod’s research team will be handing out about 150 study kits and speaking with women interested in participating.

To participate, women will be required to submit a saliva sample and complete study questionnaires (which are included in the study kits that will be provided to women). Also, study participants must be Ontario residents who have never undergone screening for BRCA1/2 mutations.

Within a year of submitting a sample, participants will be notified of their results. If a woman’s results are positive for a BRCA1/2 mutation, the researchers will contact her to arrange a genetic counselling appointment to review individualized cancer risks and management options will be arranged. 

The event is part of a larger research project that has already involved more than 6,000 women. The project was recently extended to include an additional 600 women, thanks to a generous donation from Beth Sholom Synagogue. The following week, study kits will be distributed at Mount Sinai Hospital. 

“A major part of this study includes determining if this population is satisfied with the genetic testing process and if there are ways that it could be improved,” said Sonia Nanda, the lead genetic counsellor involved in the study. “Our research has already shown that this testing is effective.”

About five per cent of women with breast cancer and 12 per cent of women with ovarian cancer are born with an inherited predisposition to cancer. Mutations occurring in two well known genes – BRCA1 and BRCA2 – have been linked to cases of hereditary breast cancer. It has been previously found that approximately one per cent of individuals of Ashkenazi heritage carry a genetic predisposition to breast or ovarian cancer. Early detection offers the best chances of disease management.

For more information about this study, please visit the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit’s website.


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