Angelina Jolie’s Cancer Prevention Surgery Puts Basser Research Center for BRCA In National Spotlight
This week, when Oscar-winning actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie revealed that she underwent surgery to remove her breasts after learning that she carries one of the BRCA gene mutations that put her at high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, the news hit home here at the University of Pennsylvania. Just a year ago, Penn announced the creation of the Basser Research Center for BRCA, which was made possible by a $25 million gift from Penn alums Mindy and Jon Gray, in honor of Mindy Gray’s sister, Faith Basser, who died of ovarian cancer at age 44. As the only center in the United States devoted solely to research on prevention and treatment for cancers related to BRCA mutations, Jolie’s story turned a spotlight on the important work in progress there, and the experiences of the many other families with similar cancer risks.
This week, Susan Domchek, MD, executive director of the Basser Center in Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, spoke with numerous national and Philadelphia-area media outlets, including the New York Times and Bloomberg News, all of whom were grappling with the larger questions prompted by Jolie’s disclosure. How many other women also face these same risks? Who should undergo genetic testing? Is having a mastectomy the only choice to cut risk?
These are issues that Domchek’s team in the Basser Center – which includes genetic counselors specifically trained to help people understand their genetic risks and create a personalized risk-reduction plan – confront every day, especially as the pace of genetic testing races forward and patients find themselves with more information about their potential risk than ever before.