Dana-Farber Cancer Institute - Women's Cancers Program

OUR RESEARCH - Breast Cancer

Project REACH (Risk Evaluation and Cancer History)

Project REACH is building a unique and critical resource for cancer research, namely, a specimen database devoted to women with increased risk of breast and gynecologic cancers. Developed in part through the SPORE grant, the associated database contains risk factor and clinical information, and will make this specimen bank extremely useful for many types of genetic and epidemiologic studies. The data will be used, among many purposes, to discover biomarkers of response to novel preventive therapies. Together with the SPORE database, which is devoted to breast cancer patients, and the ovarian cancer specimen bank, researchers are building a comprehensive resource that will permit the development and refinement of novel markers of early disease and molecularly targeted treatment strategies in breast and ovarian cancers. More than 1,000 patients have contributed tissue samples and medical histories to the repository, setting a new standard in specimen collection and database development at Dana- Farber.

A major effort utilizing the REACH database involves the investigation of "modifier" effects. Why do women who all share the same hereditary risk of cancer (based on mutations in the BRCA1 gene, for example) have such diverse clinical experiences? Why do some develop breast cancer at age 30, some ovarian cancer at 60 and some never develop cancer at all? The Friends researchers believe there are differences in hormonal, lifestyle, and other genetic factors that contribute to the chance that an individual with hereditary risk will develop cancer, when and what type of cancer, and the patient response to different treatments. These same factors may also influence the development of cancer in women without inherited risk.

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