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Miryam Z. Wahrman
 
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Affordable BRCA screening available for all Ashkenazi Jews

LocalPublished: 27 February 2015

A new program at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System in the Bronx is offering affordable genetic testing for the Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA cancer mutations.

Anyone who is of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, with at least one Ashkenazi Jewish grandparent, is eligible for the testing for a modest fee of $100.

For many years the recommendations to test for the gene were based on family or personal history of breast or ovarian cancer. But a research study recently revealed that in the Ashkenazi Jewish population, the risk of harboring BRCA cancer genes is high whether or not there is a family history of breast and ovarian cancer.

One in forty Ashkenazi Jews carry genetic glitches in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes that elevate the risk of breast and ovarian cancer to as high as 80 percent by the time they are 80 years old. In fact, the landmark study of randomly selected Ashkenazi Jewish men in Israel found that “51 percent of families…harboring BRCA1 or BRCA1 mutations had little or no history of relevant cancer.”

 
 

Testing for genetic diseases

JScreen provides easy, low-cost screening for people of Jewish lineage

LocalPublished: 04 April 2014

Looking for a novel engagement or bridal shower gift? “Forget a blender or another place setting. Give a JGift and help them ensure the best future for their family,” advises the website JScreen.org.

For $99 you can “give the gift of screening,” said Hillary Kener, JScreen’s outreach coordinator. Ms. Kener was referring to the online genetic screening program that is coordinated through the department of human genetics at Atlanta’s Emory University. With this unique program it is possible to be screened for up to 80 genetic mutations. Along with screening, the site provides education and access to genetic counseling related to the screening tests. And all of this can take place in the comfort of your own home or dormitory room.

 
 

Health care and halacha

Yeshiva University conference to look at intersection of medicine and Jewish law in Israel

LocalPublished: 18 October 2013

From the beginning of life to its end, observant Jews are governed by Jewish law, or halacha. Thus the practice of medicine in the Jewish state also is influenced by halachic principles. A day-long conference, “Prescribing for a Nation: Examining the Interplay of Jewish Law and Israeli Health Care,” addresses major issues on that topic. The conference, hosted by the Yeshiva University Medical Ethics Society, a student-run organization, is scheduled for Sunday.

“What makes Israel so unique is that so many people working in hospitals are practicing Jews,” Talia Felman of Teaneck said. Felman, a junior at YU’s Stern College for Women, is institutional outreach coordinator for MES and serves on its board. “It’s a challenge that the Israeli government has [striking a balance] between halacha and what needs to be done to keep the country running,” she said.

 
 

Supreme Court ruling on gene patenting changes the landscape for BRCA testing

Cover Story Published: 28 June 2013

On June 13, the Supreme Court ruled on gene patenting.

“We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated,” reads the opinion. The ruling describes how Myriad Genetics, Inc. “discovered the precise location and sequence of two human genes, mutations of which can substantially increase the risks of breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad obtained a number of patents based upon its discovery.” The court opinion reads like a biology textbook describing the science of DNA technology in detail. The human impact, however, is not addressed; that case could have a dramatic impact on the development, cost, and availability of genetic tests.

 
 

Supreme Court ruling on gene patenting changes the landscape for BRCA testing

New website educates the Jewish community about genetic health issues

Cover Story Published: 28 June 2013

“Advances in scientific research have identified many genetic diseases and conditions that are commonly found amongst Jews,” said Dr. Nicole Schreiber-Agus, the director of the Program for Jewish Genetic Health of Yeshiva University and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

The program, established in 2010, focuses on genetic testing, education, resources, and support. Until recently it used a grassroots approach to reach out to Jewish communities, with representatives going from place to place. “We travel a lot, and host events to make the community aware of genetic health issues, but that’s not always the most effective way for teaching,” or for reaching all who need the information, Schreiber-Agus said. So, in order to reach more people and provide more educational resources, the program launched a new website to provide online education that is “user-friendly, simple, and accessible to all who have a computer and internet access.”

 
 

Supreme Court ruling on gene patenting changes the landscape for BRCA testing

Sharsheret’s genetics for life addresses hereditary breast and ovarian cancer

Cover Story Published: 28 June 2013

“The Genetics for Life program is one of 12 national programs we run,” explained Rochelle Shoretz of Teaneck said.

Shoretz, the founder and executive director of Sharsheret, was talking about the group’s program on issues related to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Sharsheret, the Hebrew word for chain, was founded in 2001 to provide peer support, with peers reaching out to peers like links in a chain, for young women diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer. It has grown into a multifaceted organization, with 15 staff members running a dozen national programs to support women and families dealing with a host of cancer-related issues.

 
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Connecting through life

Partnership 2Gether presents seminars on stroke and Alzheimer’s disease

LocalPublished: 31 May 2013

“The global prevalence of dementia is estimated to be as high as 24 million, and is predicted to double every 20 years…. Alzheimer disease (AD) is the leading cause of dementia…”

This passage from a 2011 journal article, written by Dr. Richard Mayeux and coauthors, highlights the significant challenge posed by Alzheimer’s disease. Mayeux, who has devoted his career to understanding the mechanisms of aging and Alzheimer’s disease, will speak as part of a program on medical advances sponsored by the Partnership 2Gether Medical Task Force of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, set to take place on June 6 and 10.

The June 6 seminar, on stroke prevention and treatment, features Dr. Daniel Walzman, chief of neurosurgery at Hackensack Medical Center. Mayeux will speak on Alzheimer’s disease at the June 10 seminar. Both seminars also will feature three visiting doctors from Western Galilee Hospital in Israel: neurologists Dr. Olga Azrilin and Dr. Bella Gross and Dr. Azmon Tsur, head of the rehabilitation department.

 
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Freezing your eggs

Englewood panel explores if it is a panacea or just more pressure

LocalPublished: 10 May 2013

Should young women freeze and bank some of their eggs so some day they can conceive children?

With improved technology, elective egg freezing has become a viable possibility for women from 16 to 42 and holds out hope that women may prolong their fertility. A panel called “A Timeless Mother,” held on April 28 at Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, discussed the “social, ethical and halachic” implications of egg freezing.

 
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Targeting cancer cells

Young scientist named Intel semifinalist for her work on nanoparticles

LocalPublished: 15 February 2013

Seventeen-year-old Eliana Applebaum of Teaneck already has already won awards for three science research projects: an approach to regenerating human limbs, a way to develop a source of renewable energy, and a possible treatment for cancer.

The teen science superstar, a senior at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School in Teaneck, just scored another win. She was named a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search for a project she conducted at the State University of New York at Stony Brook last summer. The project, “A New Approach to Cancer: The Effects of Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) Nanoparticles on Human Cervical Adenocarcinoma (HeLa) Cell Membrane Mechanics,” explored the use of tiny bullet-like particles to kill cancer cells.

 
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The pause that does not refresh

Dr. Deborah Wagner Grundleger to talk about perimenopause at the JCC of Paramus

LocalPublished: 16 November 2012

“This year nearly 30 million women between 39 and 53 will experience clinical depression and anxiety disorders associated with the onset of perimenopause,” Dr. Deborah Wagner writes.

The chances are that you know one of these women — or even that you are one of them yourself.

Wagner, 54, lives in Paramus (where she often is known by her married name, Deborah Grundleger) and is a member of the JCC of Paramus. She counsels many women in that age range, along with their families, and she has just published a book on perimenopause, “The Fifth Decade: Is It Just My Life or Is It Perimenopause?”

 
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