McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine faculty member Ronald Herberman, M.D. (pictured), director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Cancer Centers recently announced the establishment of the Frieda G. and Saul F. Shapira BRCA Cancer Research Program. BRCA 1 and 2 are two genes that, when mutated, dramatically increase the risk of breast, prostate, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers.
“I am excited about the addition of this research program to UPCI,” said Dr. Herberman. “The more we learn about these mutations, the better chance we have to target high-risk patients and to find innovative ways to reduce their cancer risk.”
Women who possess either mutation have a 50 to 80 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer, and the disease progresses more quickly than in individuals without the mutations. Experts estimate that as many as one out of every 345 people in the U.S. carries a BRCA mutation, but for individuals of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish descent, the number is approximately one in 40.
These mutations have been linked primarily with an increased risk of breast cancer in women, but they also increase the risk for other cancers. Both men and women can carry the genetic mutations, which means they can be passed to children from either parent.
The David S. and Karen A. Shapira Foundation committed an initial $1 million for the program, structuring the gift as a matching grant to raise an additional $1.5 million from individuals and foundations. UPMC is matching these gifts on a dollar-for-dollar basis, for an overall goal of $5 million.
“Currently, the burden of cancer costs each American approximately $936 a year,” said Dr. Herberman. “The National Cancer Institute’s budget supporting research amounts to only $21 per American annually. To fund promising cancer research, researchers need other means of support. A gift like the one we have received from the Shapira Foundation, complemented by funds from the community and UPMC, will go a long way to supporting this important program.”
Illustration: McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.
UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Relations (05/05/08)
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (05/05/08)
UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences Media Relations—Research Supported by the Frieda G. and Saul F. Shapira BRCA-Associated Cancer Research Program