Health Scan: Sheba researchers identify genetic cause in vasculitis

This discovery may pave the path for new medications.

By
November 29, 2014 22:47
4 minute read.
Petri dish [Illustrative]

Petri dish [Illustrative]. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The genetic basis for vasculitis – a group of disorders that destroy arteries and veins by inflammation – in Jews originating from the former Soviet Republic of Georgia has been discovered at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. Prof. Ya’ir Anexter, head of the metabolic disease unit at Sheba’s Safra Children’s Hospital who worked with colleagues at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, raised the possibility that new treatments could be developed for the disease.

“Until now, it was acceptable to think that these diseases are not hereditary. This is the first time that a single gene was found to be the basis for this group of diseases. With this discovery,” said Anexter, “it could be possible to find new medications including the use of enzyme replacement therapy.”

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The discovery was announced at a research day at Sheba on breakthroughs involving vascular diseases that are genetic or acquired and tumors coming from blood vessels. Other studies presented involved stem cells of blood vessels that lead to the development of cancer in children. Prizes for excellence were given during the event to young Sheba researchers.

CHEST RADIATION FOR CHILDHOOD CANCER INCREASES RISK OF BREAST CANCER A new US study has found that patients who received chest radiation for the rare childhood cancer named Wilms tumor face an increased risk of developing breast cancer later in life due. Published early online in Cancer, the journal of the American Cancer Society, the findings suggest that cancer screening guidelines might be re-evaluated to facilitate the early diagnosis and prompt treatment of breast cancer in Wilms tumor survivors.

Wilms tumor is a kidney cancer that can spread to the lungs. Patients receive a relatively low dose of radiation therapy to the entire chest. To see if such exposure to radiation affects patients’ risk of developing breast cancer, Dr. Norman Breslow of the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle led a team that studied nearly 2,500 young women who had been treated for the tumor as children and who had survived until at least 15 years of age.

Of female Wilms tumor survivors who received radiation to the chest, over 20 percent developed breast cancer by age 40, in contrast to only 0.3% in female Wilms tumor survivors who did not receive radiation. The researchers also found an intermediate risk (4%) of breast cancer among female Wilms tumor patients who had received abdominal but no chest radiation as part of their treatment for Wilms tumor.

The rates for females receiving chest irradiation, abdominal radiation and no radiation are nearly 30, six and two times respectively those expected among women of comparable age in the general population. This high incidence of breast cancer, including invasive cancer, was an unexpected finding.

“Current guidelines call for early screening for breast cancer among survivors of childhood cancer if they have received 20 or more Grays of radiation therapy to breast tissue. This would exclude a large majority of patients who had received whole-chest radiation for Wilms tumor,” said Breslow. “Our results suggest that the risk of early breast cancer among Wilms tumor survivors is sufficiently high that early screening might be considered an option for them also.”

In an accompanying editorial by doctors at the Children’s National Health System in Washington, it was noted that high-risk Wilms tumor survivors should undergo breast cancer surveillance with mammogram, breast MRI or both starting at age 25. However, the editorial pointed to research indicating that less than half of childhood cancer survivors considered to have a high risk for breast cancer follow through with surveillance guidelines.

“Because compliance with breast cancer surveillance is low in adult survivors of childhood cancer, barriers such as education of both survivors and providers should be addressed and mitigated,” they wrote.

HOUSE CALLS FOR ERAN The good-hearted volunteers of ERAN, who provide free emotional first aid over the phone, have always had to go to an organization branch to work. But now, a new system has been introduced that enables them to answer anonymous calls from their own homes. The change, initially made when volunteers during Operation Protective Edge in the south of the country were unable to reach the branch offices, will make them much more accessible. The equipment, donated by three telecommunications and software companies, will make volunteers more accessible both during normal periods and emergencies, when there are many more callers.

ERAN can be reached every day of the year by calling 1201 from any phone, 24 hours a day, or by going into www.eran.co.il.

Numerous calls to ERAN are from lonely, sick or elderly people, and are some from would-be suicides. There are special phone lines in Arabic, Russian, for soldiers and for Holocaust survivors, as well as an Internet section specially for children and youths.


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