Genetics Symposium to Examine Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

April 17, 2003
News Office: Jennifer O'Brien (415) 502-6397

The University of California, San Francisco, Comprehensive Cancer Center will host a symposium on April 25 that will bring together renowned scientists, as well as leaders in other fields, to discuss the promise, practice and ethical issues of breast cancer genetics research.

The audience of 160 invited guests will include academic researchers, clinicians, biotechnology executives, insurance executives, community leaders, ethicists, attorneys, advocates and patients.

The intent of the event -- which will address the status and promise of research on the genetics of breast cancer, the translation of medical research to the clinic, and the ethical issues involved with carrying out genetics research and tests on patients -- is to fuel discussion on these often debated issues with the audience. Each presentation will be followed by a question and answer period, and a roundtable discussion will be held in the afternoon.

The six scientists who will speak at the symposium include Laura van 't Veer, Ph.D., of The Netherlands Cancer Institute, whose group has pioneered the use of a "genetic signature" that presages a good or poor prognosis and promises to have clinical utility in selection of patients with early breast cancer for aggressive treatment; Dr. Kari Stefansson, the chief executive officer and founder of deCODE Genetics, who was involved with the groundbreaking partnership between the Icelandic government and deCODE scientists to develop a commercial genomics database based on Iceland's extensive medical records; and Henry T. Greely, JD, C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith, professor of law, Stanford University.

The other speakers will include Frank McCormick, Ph.D., Director of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, who developed ONYX-015, an experimental therapy for treating several types of cancer; Dr. Robert Hiatt, Ph.D., UCSF assistant adjunct professor and Director of Population Sciences at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, whose mission includes studying the increased burden of cancer in the Bay Area; Dr. William Foulkes, Ph.D., who is Director of the McGill University Program in Cancer Genetics in Montreal; and Ray White, Ph.D., director of the UCSF Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center.

The roundtable facilitator will be Dr. Charles Epstein, UCSF professor of pediatrics, chief of the division of medical genetics and co-director of the UCSF Program in Human Genetics.

"The goal of genetic studies of breast cancer is to identify the genes that cause breast cancer, particularly those that most affect the outcome for patients and the response to therapy. The symposium is an opportunity to review the status of genetics research, and to address the key health policy and ethical issues associated with these studies," says the host of the symposium, Joe Gray, Ph.D., UCSF professor of laboratory medicine and radiation oncology, and the program leader of the Breast Oncology and Cancer Genetics Programs at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The symposium is sponsored by the Avon Foundation, as part of the foundation's overall funding of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center-City of San Francisco partnership aimed at addressing the breast cancer health needs of the Bay Area's under-served populations. The program aims to provide state-of-the-art equipment, medical care, education, psychosocial support and access to new treatments, clinical care and basic research.

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