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!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • 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.