Titles and Affiliations

Professor of Internal Medicine and Medical Genetics
Hebrew University
Director, Medical Genetics Institute
Shaare Zedek Medical Center
Jerusalem, Israel
 

Research area

Increasing genetic screening in high-risk populations and advancing the understanding of inherited risk factors in diverse populations.

Impact

Dr. Levy-Lahad is working on two related projects, the Israel Breast Cancer Study (IBCS) and the Middle East Breast Cancer Study (MEBCS) with BCRF colleagues Drs. Mary-Claire King and Moien Kanaan. As part of IBCS, she has evaluated the frequency that BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations occur in Ashkenazi Jewish people, a group far more likely to carry these mutations than the general population. Her work in MEBCS involves looking for new breast cancer genes in the Arab population and providing genetics services to the Palestinian population. Collectively, these studies could identify more women and families who are at high risk of breast cancer, allowing them to take advantage of preventive and early detection strategies.

Progress Thus Far

Results from IBCS have shown that population screening for hereditary risk of breast and ovarian cancer is possible in a genetically heterogeneous population and ongoing work is beginning to identify new genetic causes of breast cancer. Dr. Levy-Lahad and her team have streamlined the testing and counseling process and are able to test large numbers of women. As a result, the Israel Ministry of Health began offering genetic testing for the common BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations to all Ashkenazi women in 2020. In the MEBCS, Dr. Levy-Lahad and her collaborators have identified both common and new genetic causes of inherited breast cancer among Arab women. The MEBCS team has expanded genetic testing services and the training of nurses and social workers to increase awareness and acceptance of genetic counseling, which is now routine at most Palestinian hospitals for women diagnosed with breast cancer. 

What’s next

Dr. Levy-Lahad is continuing to develop streamlined, population-based screening with the goal of applying this paradigm to women of all ancestries. She and her team are determining the frequency and spectrum of mutations in multiple breast cancer genes both in women who are and are not BRCA mutation carriers. In parallel, they are also searching for new genetic causes of breast cancer by studying non-Ashkenazi Jews who have diverse ancestries, such as the population of the United States. The MEBCS investigators will continue their work identifying mutations responsible for inherited susceptibility to breast cancer in the Middle Eastern population, assessing cancer risk in families with genetic testing, and expanding genetic testing and counseling infrastructure in the Palestinian Authority.

Biography

Ephrat Levy-Lahad, MD, is Professor of Internal Medicine and Medical Genetics at Hebrew University and Director of the Medical Genetics Institute at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. She is one of the world's foremost authorities on inherited breast cancer among Jewish women. Dr. Levy-Lahad received her medical degree from the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem, Israel. She completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, and a three-year fellowship in Medical Genetics at the University of Washington in Seattle. Since 1996, she has been Director of the Medical Genetics Institute and senior physician in the Department of Medicine at Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Dr. Levy-Lahad holds a faculty appointment as Associate Professor in Medicine and Genetics at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School in Jerusalem.

Professor Levy-Lahad's clinical laboratory includes cancer genetics diagnostics and a large pre-implantation diagnosis service. Her research laboratory focuses on genetics of breast cancer, in particular the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, and on genetic and environmental factors that affect the risk associated with these mutations. She studies application of genetic testing to population screening and large-scale prevention efforts. Her laboratory is also involved in elucidating the genetic basis of rare diseases, including recent discoveries of novel genes for a rare congenital neurological disease in Ashkenazi Jews, and for defects in ovarian development.

Professor Levy-Lahad is active in bioethical aspects of genetic research, and is currently co-Chair of the Israel National Bioethics Council. She is a member of Israel's National Council for Women's Health and the National Council for Gynecology, Perinatal Medicine and Genetics. Internationally, she was a member of UNESCO's IBC (International Bioethics Committee) (2006-2009).

BCRF Investigator Since

2001

Donor Recognition

The Roslyn and Leslie Goldstein Award

Areas of Focus

Co-Investigator