Breast Cancer and BRCA Gene Research

BREAST CANCER is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in the United States. The prevalence of this disease, particularly among those of Ashkenazi descent, underscores the continuing importance of Hadassah Medical Organization's (HMO) breast cancer research.


HMO's three-prong program, led by Prof. Tamar Peretz, head of Hadassah’s Sharett Institute of Oncology, focuses on:

  • The role inherited traits play in developing breast cancer.
  • The specific biology of each tumor to better tailor therapy.
  • Diagnosing cancer through blood samples, rather than invasive biopsies

Hadassah researchers confirmed that Ashkenazi Jews have at least a 10 times greater prevalence of BRCA1 gene mutations. Hadassah researchers discovered founder mutations in Sephardic and Kurdish Jews, increasing the risk of breast cancer in these populations.

HMO Senior Oncologist Dr. Aviad Zick and his team are examining circulating tumor DNA in patients’ blood to help identify the type of cancer present and the appropriate treatment.

HMO researchers pioneered a diagnostic regimen to prevent transmission of the BRCA mutation to the next generation. This breakthrough in in vitro fertilization and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) enables women who carry the mutation to have their embryos pre-screened.


HMO is continuing to study circulating tumor DNA to identify specific genetic mutations and markers. Examining the tumor DNA before and after treatment will help researchers determine the efficacy of the treatment protocol and whether an alternative therapy is needed.

HMO is developing a Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) platform to examine tumor amplification, a specific DNA change characteristic of aggressive breast tumors. This could lead to another predictive marker that would signal the presence of cancer.

Hadassah researchers are more precisely identifying those at risk for breast cancer and using new Hadassah developed markers to monitor and tailor treatment.


Worldwide, medical research disproportionately focuses on men—leading to misdiagnosis and compromised care for women. Join Hadassah and advocate for gender equity in medical research (GEM). Learn more at



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