British Plan Takes Aim at 'Jewish' Cancer Gene With DNA Analysis

Would Offer BRCA Data Angelina Jolie Used in Surgery Decision

getty images

By Reuters

Published May 20, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Britain launched a research programme on Monday that should eventually allow all cancer patients to have access to the kind of genetic analysis that led Hollywood star Angelina Jolie to decide to undergo a double mastectomy.

The project, involving the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London, the U.S. gene sequencing firm Illumina , geneticists and cancer doctors, aims to find a way to allow more cancer genes be tested in more people.

Researchers announcing the 2.7 million pound ($4 million) project, funded by the Wellcome Trust medical charity, stressed this was not a response to reports last week of Jolie’s decision to undergo surgery to reduce her breast cancer risk.

“What we’re trying to do here is develop processes that will allow comprehensive and systematic use of genetic information in cancer medicine so that (more people) will be able to benefit from the types of information and situations we were hearing about last week (with the Jolie story),” said Nazneen Rahman, head of genetics at the ICR and a leader on the new project.

Mutations in some genes, known as cancer predisposition genes, greatly increase the risk that a person will get cancer.

Jolie tested positive for a high risk gene mutation that made her about five times more likely to develop breast cancer than women who do not carry this mutation, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

There are nearly 100 other known cancer predisposition genes, but in Britain - where most healthcare is part of the taxpayer-funded National Health Service - testing for them is currently very restricted.

Yet recent advances in reading the genetic code, known as gene sequencing, mean that looking for gene mutations is now faster and cheaper than ever - paving the way for gene testing eventually to become routine for all cancer patients.

“It is very important to know if a mutation in a person’s genetic blueprint has caused their cancer,” Rahman told reporters at a briefing in London.

“It allows more personalised treatment, so for example such people are often at risk of getting another cancer and may choose to have more comprehensive surgery, or may need different medicines, or extra monitoring.”

The programme, called Mainstreaming Cancer Genetics, will use a new Illumina test called TruSight that can analyse 97 cancer predisposition genes within a few weeks for a few hundred pounds, Rahman said.

The new model will be piloted initially in women with breast or ovarian cancer at London’s Royal Marsden hospital, but the team hopes it will in future be used across the country and in many more types of cancer.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.