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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

JScreen Launches National Cancer Genetic Screening Program

Erin is the Digital Content Manager at the Jewish Journal. She also covers Jewish art, entertainment and culture.

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Erin Ben-Moche
Erin is the Digital Content Manager at the Jewish Journal. She also covers Jewish art, entertainment and culture.

Genetic testing organization JScreen announced on March 22 the launch of its National Cancer Initiative which will offer a comprehensive testing panel to analyze the BRCA genes and more than 60 other cancer susceptibility genes.

The national public health initiative based out of Emory University School of Medicine’s Department of Human Genetics, said in a release that the new program will offer at-home testing for more than 60 cancer susceptibility genes associated with hereditary risks for breast, ovarian, prostate, colorectal and skin cancers.

“Making cancer genetic testing accessible is key,” Jane Lowe Meisel, medical director for JScreen’s cancer program, said. “This type of testing is important because it alerts people to their risks before they get cancer. They can then take action to help prevent cancer altogether or to detect it at an early, treatable stage.”

JScreen’s cancer testing panel includes genes that are actionable, which means there is something that can be done to help prevent cancer if a person tests positive. Licensed genetic counselors provide information via phone or secure video conferencing to ensure that people understand their results.

JScreen’s cancer testing panel includes genes that are actionable, which means there is something that can be done to help prevent cancer if a person tests positive.

Up until now, JScreen has focused on reproductive carrier screening for diseases like Tay-Sachs and cystic fibrosis. Since launching in September 2013, JScreen has received thousands of requests for screening kits from people all across the U.S. JScreen tests for 226 diseases. Through saliva at home spit tests, Jewish and non-Jewish couples can get tested for $149, regardless of insurance. Then, couples can meet privately with a genetic counselor to hear their options.

According to JScreen, Ashkenazi Jewish men and women face a 1 in 40 risk of carrying mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes; this is more than 10 times the risk in the general population. Ashkenazi Jews are at increased risk for carrying these mutations even if they do not have a personal or close family history of BRCA-related cancers.

In July 2019, JScreen and Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute launched the Atlanta PEACH BRCA pilot study to assess interest in testing for the BRCA genes. Through this study, JScreen offered at-home BRCA testing to eligible Ashkenazi Jews age 25 and older who did not have personal or close family histories of related cancers, but were at risk based on their ancestry. The study enrolled more than 500 eligible participants in less than six months. The study confirmed interest in at-home cancer genetic testing for BRCA and other cancer susceptibility genes in this community, and helped inform best practices for the national launch of JScreen’s cancer genetic screening initiative. Many including Atlanta resident Karen Smerling discovered they were BRCA 2 positive after participating in the study. Because of JScreen’s genetic testing and consultation, Smerling had the proper information to take action.

“I chose to have a bilateral mastectomy before cancer could possibly come my way,” Smerling said. “JScreen did indeed save my life and can do so for others who take the first steps toward genetic testing.”

When it comes to genetic testing, Karen Arnovitz Grinzaid, JScreen’s executive director, said “Knowledge is power.”

“With an understanding and awareness of their cancer risks and available options, individuals can work with their health-care providers on next steps,” she said. “Launching our new cancer program and providing convenient and affordable access to cancer genetic testing will help save lives. We are thrilled to bring this important resource to the Jewish community.”

For more information on JScreen’s services, visit their website.

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