Coalition Launched Aiming to Prevent Jewish Hereditary Cancers and Save Jewish Lives

The Bringing Radical Cancer Awareness Initiative Provides Genetic Testing to Population with Increased Cancer Risks

Denver Colo. (February 7, 2024) – Among the known causes for breast, ovarian, pancreatic and prostate cancers is a mutation of the tumor suppressor BRCA gene. While BRCA gene mutations are relatively rare among the general population, occurring in just 1 out of 400 people, the incidence is much higher among people of Jewish descent and rises to 1 in 40 for people of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage.

A coalition of non-profits, including the Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center, Jewish Colorado, Sharsheret, and the Kaballah Experience, in collaboration with both the University of Colorado and Emory University and local cancer prevention groups, has launched a hereditary cancer prevention initiative called Bringing Radical Cancer Awareness to Our Jewish Community. The initiative focuses on educating the Jewish population about the increased risks associated with the BRCA gene mutation, and providing an opportunity for all those over 25 with at least one Jewish grandparent to receive genetic testing in an effort to prevent cancer.

Over the course of the next three years, the BRCA initiative will host a promotional campaign to encourage Coloradans of Jewish descent to protect themselves by learning more about their hereditary risk. As part of the campaign, adults over the age of 25 who have at least one Jewish grandparent will be invited to participate in the academic study by signing up at  www.JewishCommunityCancerPrevention.org.  For the first 100 participants, the out-of-pocket costs associated with the genetic testing will then be reimbursed by the initiative. Because the BRCA gene mutation can be passed on by either parent and affects all future generations, both males and females are encouraged to participate.

Rick Kornfeld, who is a fourth generation Coloradan and a lawyer in Denver, is one of 16 people on the steering committee helping to guide the BRCA initiative. At the suggestion of his doctor, Kornfeld elected to have genetic testing in December 2022 due to a family cancer history. The simple blood test revealed he carries the gene mutation. “Having that knowledge provided me and my family power over our futures by being able to proactively address our increased cancer risk. I now have regular cancer screenings, and both my daughters have also had genetic testing. One of my daughters also carries the mutation and this information will help her take the necessary precautions to protect not only her health but also that of any children she may have in the future.”

The process to enroll is simple and confidential. The study also will help both medical providers and Jewish communities across the country understand the best ways to motivate people to get people tested. Once interested participants complete a short, confidential, online assessment, they will receive an at-home saliva collection kit that will be sent to the certified testing lab in a pre-paid mailer. They will then meet with a certified genetic counselor via a telehealth appointment. Their physician will also receive a copy of the results and be able to provide further assistance and/or connections to additional resources should the individual test positive for the BRCA mutation.

Dr. Donald Aptekar, who is part of the Medical Advisory Team for the initiative, shared why he feels the study is so important, saying, “Genetic testing is a valuable tool that can quite literally save your life or the lives of  members of your family.” Individuals who test positive for a mutation of the BRCA genes can explore different options to decrease their risk of the cancers associated with the mutation including:

  • Having different types of cancer screening exams or receiving screening at an earlier age or more frequently than recommended for the general public.
  • Taking medications that are known to reduce cancer risk.
  • Electing to have preventive surgeries to reduce cancer risks, such as the removal of the ovaries..

The following individuals and organizations are leading the Bringing Radical Cancer Awareness to Our Jewish Community initiative:

Partners

Medical Advisory Team

  • Christine Walsh M.D.
  • Donald Aptekar M.D.
  • Mary Freivogel, MS, CGC
  • Sharisse Jimenez, MA MS, CGC
  • Emily Goldberg, MS, CGC

Staff

  • Amy Morris
  • Leslie Dorfman
  • Patrice Hauptman
  • Susan Kramer

Steering Committee

  • Nikki Cohen
  • David Foster
  • Melanie Gruenwald
  • Susan Hollander
  • Joanne Kleinstein
  • Rick Kornfeld
  • Molly Lanphier
  • Roberta Levin
  • Casey Madison
  • Wendy Miller
  • Michael Millstein
  • Lisa Mintz
  • Leslie Sidell
  • Sylvie Sherman Block

To learn more or complete the assessment to receive genetic testing, visit www.JewishCommunityCancerPrevention.org or contact Amy Morris at Amy@JewishCommunityCancer.org.

About Staff

They call me "NewsHound IV," because I'm a clever Finnegan, sniffing out stories all over the Boulder area. I love Jewish holidays because the food is GREAT, especially the brisket. Well all the food. I was a rescue pup and glad to be on the scent!

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