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-
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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