With CRISPR, Scientists Engineered Nearly 4,000 Mutations of a Breast-Cancer Gene (September 2018)
Using CRISPR, a team assessed 3,893 otherwise unstudied mutations of BRCA1, which normally suppresses cancerous tumors, but can be rendered ineffective when they’re mutated. Susan M. Domchek, MD, executive director of the Basser Center for BRCA, who was not involved in the study, was quoted in The Atlantic calling the work, “a tour de force.” Read more in The Atlantic. Read more on the same topic in The Scientist.
How Men Can Be Affected by the BRCA Gene, Too (September 2018)
Susan Domchek, MD, Executive Director of the Basser Center, tells the New York Post that while BRCA genes normally “have a protective effect” against cancer, mutations stop those genes from doing their job. As a result, carriers are more likely to develop cancers earlier in life than non-carriers — and more aggressive cancers, too. Domchek and Penn patient Steven Merlin, whose participation in groundbreaking clinical trials using PARP Inhibitor drugs has kept him cancer-free for six years, comment on how BRCA mutations affect men. Read more.
The club where no one has cancer — yet (August 2018)
Basser Young Leadership Council member Suzanne Zupello recently penned this personal piece on the importance of support communities for those with BRCA mutations for The Lily. Read more.
Centenarian Eagles Fan Becomes Social Media Star (August 2018)
The Basser family patriarch, Phil Basser, father to the Center's co-founder Mindy Gray and Basser Global Prize co-founder Shari Potter, is featured in the Jewish Exponent for his century of loving Philadelphia football. Read more.
Pilot Program Offers Free Genetic Testing for Ashkenazi Jews to Detect Cancer Risk (July 2018)
Basser Executive Director, Susan Domchek, MD, explains the recently began BRCA Founder Outreach Study (BFOR) with the Cleveland Jewish News. Read more.
Rucaparib Induces Response in BRCA-Mutated Pancreatic Cancer (July 2018)
Basser Executive Director, Susan Domchek, MD, discusses the challenges of treating pancreatic cancer, the role of BRCA mutations in malignancies other than breast or ovarian cancers, and the broader role of PARP inhibitors for this patient population. Read more at Healio.
At-Home DNA Tests are Changing How Patients See Themselves (July 2018)
WHYY's The Pulse sat down with Dana Clark, MS, LCGC, a genetic counselor in the Basser Center, to learn how these services are affecting decisions and outlooks on health. Listen here.
Free Panel to Explore Living with Inherited Cancer Risk (July 2018)
The San Diego Union-Tribune reports on our upcoming panel on hereditary cancer and BRCA in La Jolla, California. Read more.
Beyond BRCA: Examining Links between Breast Cancer, Second Primary Cancer and Inherited Genetic Mutations (May 2018)
Rates of inherited mutations in genes other than BRCA1/2 are twice as high in breast cancer patients who have had a second primary cancer – including, in some cases, different types of breast cancer – compared to patients who have only had a single breast cancer. But the rates of these mutations were still found to be low overall, meaning it’s difficult to assess whether and how these individual mutations may drive the development of cancer. Read more at Penn Medicine.
Using Telemedicine to Bring Genetic Counseling to Community Cancer Care (May 2018)
Genetic counseling for cancer patients has become standard of care at academic medical centers, but patients cared for at community-based medical practices across the United States may not have access to these resources. Video and phone sessions can close that gap and bring genetic counseling to patients who would not otherwise have the chance to receive it, according to a new study from the Basser Center for BRCA at the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center. Read more at Penn Medicine.
Ovarian Cancer Drug Shows Promise in Pancreatic Cancer Patients with BRCA Mutation (May 2018)
A targeted therapy that has shown its power in fighting ovarian cancer in women, including those with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, may also help patients with aggressive pancreatic cancer who harbor these mutations and have few or no other treatment options. An international team of researchers led by the Perelman School of Medicine and the Basser Center reported their findings this week in JCO Precision Oncology. Read more at Penn Medicine.
The ‘Jolie Effect’ Was A Game-Changer For Breast Cancer, But It Was Just A Start (May 2018)
Basser Young Leadership Council Co-Chair Erika Stallings contributed this opinion piece to Huffington Post on the future of BRCA testing and on-going challenges, such as difficulties regarding access to genetic counseling and testing. Read more at the Huffington Post.
PARP Drugs Help Some Breast Cancer Patients, But They’re No Magic Bullet (April 2018)
For the more than 155,000 people in the U.S. living with metastatic breast cancer, the wide range of treatment options includes immune-activating agents, molecularly-targeted pills, chemotherapy, hormone agents, newer antibodies, and palliative care, and these choices are not mutually exclusive. Forbes spoke with Susan Domchek, MD, executive director of the Basser Center for BRCA, about how a woman with advanced breast cancer might choose among treatments, and the latest data available on the effectiveness and safety of PARP inhibitors. Read more at Forbes.
PARP-1 May be Key to Effectiveness of PARP Inhibitors, and Now Researchers Can Image It (April 2018)
Penn Medicine researchers – including Basser's Director of Basic Science, Roger Greenberg, PhD, MD – have used CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing technology to isolate a key genetic feature that could cause resistance to PARP inhibitors in patients with ovarian cancer – and they’ve also proven they have a way to see that feature using PET imaging. The team found PARP inhibitors – a type of targeted therapy that kills cancer cells with mutations in their DNA repair genes while sparing healthy tissue that does not have the mutations – specifically require the presence of PARP-1 in order to take effect. They also show that a radioactive tracer developed at Penn makes PARP-1 visible during PET scans and may provide a method of measuring PARP-1 in ovarian cancer that complements biopsy. The findings of this multidisciplinary team – which included radiologists, pathologists, and oncologists from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine – were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation this month. Read more at Penn Medicine.
Kravis, Ackman, and Gray Have Some Advice for New Philanthropists (April 2018)
Mindy and Jon Gray, University of Pennsylvania alumni and founders of the Basser Center for BRCA, are featured in a Bloomberg Markets article profiling people in finance who have defined their philanthropy early in their careers. In addition to the Basser Center, the Grays provided the seed money for NYC Kids RISE, which offers college savings accounts for low-income students in New York City. Read more.
F.D.A. Approves First Home Testing for 3 Breast Cancer Mutations, With Caveats (March 2018)
The New York Times featured yesterday's FDA approval of at-home genetic testing for BRCA mutations, while highlighting concerns. Basser Center Executive Director Susan Domchek was interviewed and cautioned that people may experience anxiety when undergoing genetic testing, and recommends that they discuss any concerns with their doctor. Read more at the New York Times, in USA Today, in Cure Magazine, and STAT, where Dr. Domchek writes, "Genetic testing can be lifesaving, but it must come with all the facts — which are mounting by the day — and appropriate professional support to help individuals live and plan for the best chance of a healthy life, no matter what the results reveal. That’s something a mail-order kit just can’t do."
Faith, Fate, and Families (February 2018)
Penn Medicine Magazine's latest issue includes the story of how the Basser Center was founded in memory of Faith Basser, and how BRCA mutations can impact families around the world. Read the full issue here or download the article.
Phil Basser Celebrates 100 Years with the Eagles (January 2018)
Basser Center co-founder Mindy Gray's family is in the news, thanks to her inspiring father, Phil Basser, whose love of the Eagles has gone viral just before his 100th birthday. Fox News interviewed Phil about how his family is taking him to the upcoming NFC Championship game in Philadelphia as an early birthday present, where he'll hopefully bring the Birds some luck. View his videos on Fox News and Good Morning Football, and read more on Fox News and PhillyVoice.
Breast Cancer Caused by Genetic Mutation Gets First Approved Treatment Through FDA Approval of Olaparib (January 2018)
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved olaparib as the first treatment for advanced breast cancer caused by mutations in BRCA genes, in an important step in the fight against inherited cancers. This is an extension of the approval of olaparib from 2014, when it was approved to treat BRCA-related ovarian cancer.
Basser Executive Director Susan Domchek co-led the OlympiAD trials that led to FDA approval of olaparib for the treatment of breast cancer. “Fifty percent of the BRCA patients in this trial were triple negative,” she said. “So all of a sudden, we have a new option for a subset of triple negative patients.” Trials are now underway to see if Lynparza (olaparib) can prevent recurrence if it is given to patients after initial surgery and chemotheraphy, and to see its results in combination with other targeted therapies. Read more at Philly.com.
Penn Effort to Expand Trials of Olaparib Leads to New Treatment Options for Patients with Advanced BRCA-Related Breast Cancer (June 2017)
Six years ago an international team of physician scientists known as BRCA-TAC led a charge to advance clinical testing of the PARP inhibitor olaparib in cancer patients with known inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2. This June, during the plenary session of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting, that push came full circle with the presentation of results of the phase III OlympiAD trial demonstrating for the first time that olaparib is superior to chemotherapy in patients with BRCA-related advanced breast cancer.
“Although previous studies suggested olaparib could benefit patients with advanced breast cancers, we are now reporting that olaparib improves progression-free survival better than standard chemotherapy,” said study co-author Susan Domchek, MD, executive director of the Basser Center. Read more at Penn Medicine.
Hope and Hype Around Cancer Immunotherapy (June 2017)
Immunotherapy treatments are on the rise, thanks to recent studies carried out by international researchers. These treatments harnesses the body's own immune system to target and attack a disease, and includes vaccines, antibodies, drugs, and more. The Abramson Cancer Center's Dr. Robert Vonderheide, in collaboration with the Basser Center, is leading vaccine-based trials for the prevention of cancers associated with BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. Read more at CNN.
Ethical Dilemmas Arise from Genetic Testing for Cancer (June 2017)
CURE Magazine discusses the complicated issue of genetic testing, with input from the experts on the Basser Center for BRCA's April 25th panel in Manhattan, which included the Center's Executive Director, Dr. Susan Domchek. "Identifying meaningful mutations and using those findings to promote cancer prevention and treatment — without causing harm along the way — will require the nation’s legislative and medical leaders to work through a number of difficult issues."
New $21 Million Gift Puts Basser Center for BRCA at the Forefront of Advancements for Patients At Risk of Inherited Cancers (May 2017)
A new $21 million gift to the Basser Center for BRCA at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania from alumni Mindy and Jon Gray will cement and propel Penn’s preeminence as a leader in research to improve treatment and prevention strategies for hereditary cancers. The gift brings the Grays’ total commitment to $55 million, following their initial $25 million gift that established the Basser Center in 2012, and subsequent gifts to support the Center, which advances BRCA gene mutation-related science around the world. Read more at Penn Medicine and Bloomberg.
In the War Against Cancer, Modesty is Not an Ally (November 2016)
An article from the Toronto Star profiles Steven Narod, MD, FRCPC, FRSC, director of the Familial Breast Cancer Research Unit and a senior scientist at the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, whose seminal work on BRAC1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes earned him this year's Basser Global Prize. Narod is the first Canadian to receive the annual recognition from The Basser Center for BRCA at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center.
Ask the Experts: How to Talk About Family Medical History at Thanksgiving (November 2016)
With the holidays right around the corner, there may be people cringing at the thought of anything resembling politics being discussed at the family table. As an alternative topic, getting together with relatives can be the perfect opportunity to discuss your family medical history. Danielle McKenna, Amanda Brandt and Dana Clark, genetic counselors at Basser Center for BRCA, discuss with Philly.com how best to approach the topic and important questions to ask.
'In Our Genes' Event Raises Research Funds, Builds Community for Those at Increased Risk of Breast and Ovarian Cancers (October 2016)
When faced with cancer or any other difficult situation in life, Cure writes that one of the best medicines can be to hear stories and advice from others. This was the key point Susan M. Domchek, MD, made in her closing remarks during last night’s “In Our Genes: An Evening of Storytelling” event in New York City. The event was put on by the Young Leadership Council (YLC) of the Basser Center for BRCA, and featured three speakers who told their stories of learning they — and in one case, a loved one — were positive for a BRCA mutation.
Basser Jean Bash 2015 Raises $8 Million and Launches rag & bone/JEAN x Basser Partnership (November 2015)
Over 1,000 people came together on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 in New York City to Unzip Their Genes at the Basser Jean Bash. The celebration helped raise over $8 million to support the Basser Center for BRCA at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center - the first and only center in the world solely dedicated to defeating BRCA-related cancers. Speakers included Robin Roberts from ABC’s “Good Morning America,” singer-songwriter Kara DioGuardi and performers included Freestyle Love Supreme and American Authors. The Basser Jean Bash also launched the limited stock rag & bone/ JEAN x Basser jeans. The jeans boast the Basser Center's distinct logo and are available exclusively at select Bloomingdales and rag & bone retail stores and ecommerce platforms with seven percent of the sale price benefiting the Basser Center.
Local Media Coverage
Are the Kids All Right? When Breast Cancer Runs in the Family (October 2015)
CBS News and HealthDay report on a new study, led by Angela Bradbury, MD, an assistant professor of Medicine and an investigator in the Basser Center for BRCA, which examined the psychosocial development of girls from families with a history of breast cancer or a known genetic risk for it, compared to girls without a family history of the disease. The study found that girls from breast cancer families have higher levels of anxiety about their risk for the disease but seem to adjust just as well as other girls when it comes to general anxiety, depression and overall psychosocial adjustment. The results of the study were published in the journal Pediatrics on October 20, 2015.
Susan Domchek, MD Receives Penn Medicine Award of Excellence (October 2015)
Susan Domchek, Executive Director of the Basser Center for BRCA, received the 2015 William Osler Patient Oriented Research Award. Established in 1996 to honor Dr. Osler, the “Father of Clinical Medicine,” who revolutionized clinical teaching and research in the 1880s at the School of Medicine, the award is granted to a member of the faculty for a body of work, with an emphasis on clinical research, performed predominantly at Penn in the last five years.
Read more about past winners of the Penn Medicine Awards of Excellence.
Basser Center for BRCA Awards $375,000 in National Grants to Support BRCA1 and BRCA2 Mutation Research (October 2015)
The Basser Center for announced $375,000 in new grant funding to support BRCA-focused research projects across the nation. The grants are aimed at advancing the care of patients living with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. The Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, which houses the Basser Center, will administer the awards. The grants represent the second year of funding under the Basser External Research Grant Program, which supports translational cancer research projects with strong potential to advance rapidly into clinical practice. To date, the Center has awarded over $1.75 million in grant funding through the program.
“The projects funded this year are among the most promising of BRCA-related cancer research anywhere,” said Susan Domchek, MD executive director of the Basser Center for BRCA and the Basser Professor in Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center. “Our colleagues across the country are doing exceptional work to continue providing real hope to at-risk patients, and we are pleased to play a role in ensuring that their research is given every opportunity to be completed, and potentially applied to patient care.”