Heard of the Basser Research Center? Until recently, neither had Jan. Even after seven years with cancer, she continues to learn about the available resources. The Basser center investigates the link between BRCA gene defects and risk levels for ovarian and breast cancer. If your family’s a known carrier of this defect, consider getting tested.
Gene
 
Networking with people who share your diagnosis is invaluable. You never know what you might learn. Years ago—after being diagnosed and then quitting my job—I learned from a blog for women with ovarian cancer that I would be eligible for disability benefits.

Of course, there are dozens upon dozens of research and support organizations for women with ovarian cancer, and in my nearly seven years with the disease, I thought I’d heard of them all.

I was wrong.

This week, I connected over lunch with another woman with ovarian cancer. She introduced me to the Basser Research Center. The name was entirely foreign.

Operating from within the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center, the Basser Research Center focuses exclusively on the mutations found on the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes, mutations that vastly increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

The Basser center researches the basic biology of BRCA-related cancers and also investigates the communication of BRCA test results within families.

Not surprisingly, the Basser Research Center was funded as a result of someone dying of ovarian cancer. The $25 million gift was contributed by University of Pennsylvania alumni Mindy and Jon Gray after Mindy lost her sister to the disease at a young age.

After I received my ovarian cancer diagnosis, I learned I have a BRCA defect. In the years since, I’ve been somewhat involved with two other organizations that focus on ovarian and breast cancer caused by BRCA defects. While I learned something from both of them, the Basser Research Center has really caught my attention because it offers a variety of support services to BRCA positive individuals and their families.

It attempts to understand the biology of BRCA cancers to improve diagnosis and treatment, as well as to understand how these cancers develop and respond to therapy. The Basser Center is developing technologies to help achieve early diagnoses. This is so important. Currently, there is no test for early detection of ovarian cancer. Every single woman I know with ovarian cancer was diagnosed at Stage 3C, minimizing the chances for a long life and maximizing the need for repeated chemo therapy.

If families know they are carriers of the BRCA defect, they can anticipate higher risks of an ovarian cancer diagnosis. The Basser Center helps educate family members of BRCA carriers, providing personalized risk assessment and prevention options. I have three siblings. Only one has undergone BRCA testing and was found negative, while one of the remaining two is considering the test. I am a huge proponent of BRCA testing – as you can see from the video on ShareWIK.

Another reason I’m becoming a “groupie” of the Basser Research Center is because it’s a source of information about clinical trials and other research studies. Although I haven’t needed to repeat any chemo since my initial four months of intensive chemo following my diagnosis, I know I will at some point. And my doctor and I have long discussed the possibility of me entering a clinical trial because a drug group known as PARP inhibitors seems to have particularly good results against ovarian cancer in women who are BRCA positive.

When it looks like I am nearing the time for needing chemotherapy, I will definitely check out the Basser Research Center to see what clinical trials they are offering. And if either of my untested siblings learns he or she is positive for the BRCA mutation, I will immediately put them in touch with Basser. Both siblings have children; the need to inform and educate them about their risks for breast or ovarian cancer is paramount.

I’m so glad I had lunch with this new friend of mine. I’m sure we’ll continue to compare notes about our journeys with ovarian cancer.

 

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