Professor, Molecular Genetics
Dean of Science and Director
Hereditary Research Laboratory
Genetic analysis and medical follow-up services for breast and ovarian cancer risk among Jewish women in the Middle East are highly developed. Comparable services for women of other ancestries in the region were not available, however until the initiation of the Middle East Breast Cancer Study (MEBCS) in 2007 with support from BCRF. BCRF has been a continuous sponsor of the MEBC, the goal of which is to provide genetic counseling, analysis and follow-up services to all women of in the region.
The MEBCS is directed jointly by Ephrat Levy-Lahad, MD, of Shaare Zedek Hospital and Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, Dr. Kanaan and Mary-Claire King, PhD, of the University of Washington, Seattle, USA. The MEBCS is a sister project of the New York Breast Cancer Study (NYBCS), directed by Dr King, and the Israel Breast Cancer Study (IBCS), directed by Dr. Levy-Lahad, which are also sponsored by BCRF.
As of this year, the MEBCS has enrolled 852 breast cancer patients of Palestinian and Arab-Israeli origins and has completed genomic analysis comprising BRCA1 and BRCA2 and more than 30 other known and candidate breast cancer genes for 344 of these patients. The investigators will continue to screen for all these mutations in this group in order to determine the frequency of each and how each mutation affects the function of its gene. This year they will also extend their outreach to additional Palestinian patients through a new collaboration with the Beit Jala Governmental Hospital (El-Hussein).
A striking observation of the study to date is that many patients from very severely affected MEBCS families have no clearly damaging mutation in any of the known breast cancer genes. The observation supports the widely held belief that breast cancer has many different genetic causes, and therefore studying this population will enable discovery of new genes underlying breast cancer in women from all parts of the world.
Dr. Kanaan is a Professor of Molecular Genetics in the Department of Life Sciences, Faculty of Science at Bethlehem University, Palestine and Director of the Bethlehem University Hereditary Research Laboratory (HRL), which he established in 1992. Over the last 18 years his laboratory has been investigating the genetically isolated Palestinian population and its high rate of genetically-based diseases, with a focus on hereditary hearing impairment (HHI).
Dr. Kanaan’s laboratory uses current approaches in genetics, genomics, cell biology and biochemistry in studying inherited hearing loss in a large extended Palestinian cohort and has contributed to profiling a broad spectrum of novel mutations in many genes known to cause hearing loss. His current project with Ephrat Levy-Lahad and Mary-Claire King builds on his prior work and will focus on the mutation profiling of breast cancer in the a high –risk Palestinian population. Dr. Kanaan is recognized as a leading Palestinian geneticist. He has many publications to his credit and is a recipient of many research and scientific awards. He has participated in many international research efforts and scientific networks.