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Last week, the US Supreme Court ruled on a significant gene patenting case. The issue before the Court was whether or not a company’s patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes could be upheld. The landmark ruling states that a gene is a naturally occurring product of nature, and therefore cannot be patented. The Supreme Court’s ruling has important implications for clinicians, cancer patients, and individuals who are at higher risk of a BRCA mutation than the average population either by personal or family history. Many say that the Court’s ruling will increase access to genetic testing by eliminating the monopoly on the test, which will thereby reduce the cost of testing significantly and allow for consumer choice. For many years, the American College of Medical Genetics has asserted that gene patents “stand firmly in the way of good patient care, interfere with informed decision-making by patients, impede training of the next generation of lab professionals and restrict the flow of information that is critical to advancing medical knowledge and better medical care accessible to all.” Therefore, some anticipate that this decision will better enable appropriate and more affordable testing, particularly for those who are uninsured or underinsured.
Carrie Horton, MS, CGC
Director of Genetic Counseling
Brad Somer, MD
By: Ruthie Arbit, Sema Heller Netivot Shalom Summer Intern
After 10 weeks of interning at Sharsheret, I can safely say that I went from a state of bewilderment from when I initially heard about Sharsheret in April to a state of admiration. Then, I was struck by the cause; I didn’t know that breast cancer and ovarian cancer were Jewish issues and I wondered what Sharsheret was doing to help Jewish women facing these illnesses. Now, I am in awe as I think about the callers, the peer supporters, and the volunteers who help us at Sharsheret do what we do.
The Sharsheret office is an incredible place. On any given day there is a string of devoted volunteers popping in and out, Team Sharsheret athletes coming in to meet with the staff, and the daily visit by the postman who picks up packages filled with hundreds of breast cancer and ovarian cancer brochures to be delivered to women and families, health care professionals, conferences, and Jewish organizations nationwide. Add all of this to the hard work that the dedicated staff at Sharsheret puts in – providing emotional support to women living with cancer and their families, answering countless questions from health care professionals about the unique needs of their Jewish patients, planning outreach events to spread the word about Sharsheret’s programs and services, coordinating medical symposia, and processing generous contributions from donors. It’s no surprise then that after only 10 years since its inception, Sharsheret has become an esteemed national organization with 11 programs, more than 1,200 peer supporters, and thousands of volunteers and supporters.
However, what impresses me most about Sharsheret are the women. The women who call Sharsheret for support as they ponder the potentially life-changing decision of whether or not to undergo genetic testing, the women who have just finished their final round of chemo and are already volunteering to be peer supporters, and those who are living with metastatic cancer and finding value in every day moments.
All of these women amaze me.
So, as I near the end of my internship, I want to say thank you to the women whose strength fuels the energy of Sharsheret. I am sure that this won’t be the last time I will be surprised by the amazing work of Sharsheret, its staff, and its women. Although my internship is ending, my connection to Sharsheret will remain strong. I look forward to joining Sharsheret’s volunteer force and contributing my time and skills to this wonderful organization.
We are excited to introduce Team Sharsheret’s 10 athletes who will compete in the Nautica/NYC Triathlon on August 7, 2011. Our athletes have been training hard for this Olympic Distance Race that includes a 1500m swim, a 40k bike, and a 10k run! Please join us in supporting their athletic and fundraising efforts as they take on this incredible challenge.
Whether you’re an experienced athlete or a beginner, Team Sharsheret has lots of exciting opportunities to help you stay in shape and challenge your athletic abilities. Check out these events and competitions and let us know which one you want to sign up for!
By: Rochelle Shoretz, Founder and Executive Director
Each year, thousands of clinicians and researchers convene at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. Sprinkled among them are patient advocates and patients, like me, who attend sessions so that they can share the latest research with others. This year, I was fortunate to attend the ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago with a patient advocate scholarship from the Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO, and I’m delighted to be able to share research in both breast cancer and ovarian cancer with you.
But first, I need to share a conversation I had with a cab driver on my way to a local outreach event we coordinated for cancer survivors and professionals.
“Let me ask you a question,” the driver began. “There are thousands of researchers and doctors attending this cancer conference, but there is still no cure for cancer. Isn’t this a waste of time and money?”
I’ve heard this question many times before, and I’ve answered it many times before. But this time, I was en route to meet some of our Sharsheret callers living in Chicago, and survivors interested in learning more about our national programs – and the answer seemed more urgent. As I explained to the driver, the research presented at ASCO may not, itself, be the cure for the cancer, but it certainly includes critical pieces to the larger puzzle. And even though that research may not offer the cure today, it is giving most of us living with cancer better quality of life and, some of us, longer lives to live.
I hopped out of the cab and headed into “Cocktails and Conversation”, an opportunity for me to meet with our Sharsheret callers and new women welcomed by our partner organizations in Chicago – Bright Pink, Cancer Legal Resource Center, FORCE, Gilda’s Club Chicago, MyLifeLine.org, and Y-Me. Everyone was buzzing about the conference and the research to be presented that weekend.
For those of us facing breast cancer, the big ASCO news stemmed from a study that showed that post-menopausal women who have a high risk of breast cancer were less likely to develop the disease when they received an aromatase inhibitor called exemestane (Aromasin). That news is important for many of our Sharsheret callers, as 1 in 40 Jews of Ashkenazi descent is at high risk of developing breast cancer (and ovarian cancer) because of a mutation they carry in what is commonly referred to as the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. You can read more about the study at http://bit.ly/iLSZuj.
For those of us facing ovarian cancer, scientists at ASCO presented promising research findings from two studies that examined the drug bevacizumab (Avastin) to treat recurrent and newly-diagnosed ovarian cancer. You can read more about those studies at http://bit.ly/iqlc4a.
You can call Sharsheret to speak with a genetic counselor or one of our clinical staff with any questions about these research studies.
As we exhibit and attend breast cancer and ovarian cancer conferences across the country, all of the staff at Sharsheret look forward to sharing our findings with you. Whether our perspectives are gleaned in the cab or the conference hall, we’re proud to be your source of support and information on this journey.
© 2014 Sharsheret: Your Jewish Community Facing Breast Cancer
Sharsheret is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization ID# 13-4198529
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