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BCRF Grantee Since

2013

Donor Recognition

The J.C. Penney Award

Area(s) of Focus

Jeffrey N. Weitzel, MD

Director and Professor
Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics
Department of Population Sciences
Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope
Duarte, California

Current Research

Actress Angelina Jolie’s public announcement to undergo a preventive mastectomy after learning she carried the BRCA mutation brought a renewed focus to hereditary breast cancer risk and the difficult choices a woman with a BRCA mutation faces to prevent the disease. While commercial testing for BRCA mutation has been available in the US for nearly two decades, access to BRCA gene testing and genetic counseling is not available for the majority of Latin American and Mexican families. Recent studies by Dr. Weitzel and colleagues documented BRCA mutations in 189 of 746 (25%) US Hispanic women, highlighting a need for better access to genetic testing and counseling in this population. In his current BCRF project, Dr. Weitzel is testing a low-cost (~$25/case) genomic panel called HISPANEL in high-risk breast cancer patients in Latin America and training doctors and nurses on providing genetic counseling and testing in Peru, Colombia and Mexico. They have made significant progress in training doctors and identifying many BRCA carriers among breast cancer populations. In coming year they will open three new sites in Colombia to better reflect this diverse population and help address local needs. The goal of this international project is to make important observations about BRCA mutations among Latin American women, while helping the respective countries create an infrastructure of genetic testing and counseling for early detection and prevention of breast cancer. This study will improve genetic screening of women who are at high risk of getting breast cancer, so that limited clinical resources can be focused where they are needed most, while expanding our understanding of the problem of hereditary breast cancer in Latin America.

Bio

Jeffrey N. Weitzel, MD is Chief of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics and the Cancer Screening & Prevention Program at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, California. Dr. Weitzel is Board Certified in clinical genetics and medical oncology, and he is a Professor of Oncology and Population Sciences at the City of Hope. At the vanguard of personalized medicine, Dr. Weitzel’s multidisciplinary clinical, research, and training programs emphasize translational research in genomic cancer risk assessment, chemoprevention, targeted therapy, clinical and psychosocial outcomes, genetic epidemiology and health services research in underserved minorities, and hereditary cancer in Latin America. He is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the NCCN Genetics/Familial Risk Assessment practice guidelines committee. Dr. Weitzel is the principal investigator for the City of Hope Cancer Genetics Education Program and for the Clinical Cancer Genetics Community Research Network, which are funded by the National Cancer Institute.