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Moien Kanaan, PhD
Professor, Molecular Genetics
Dean of Science and Director
Hereditary Research Laboratory
Goal: To increase genetic screening in high-risk populations and advance the understanding of inherited genetic risk factors in diverse populations.
Impact: The Middle East Breast Cancer Study (MEBCS) has created a medical and research infrastructure for genetics counseling and testing for the Palestinian population. The research team of Drs. Kanaan, Levy-Lahad and King have identified both common and new genetic causes of inherited breast cancer, which provides critical information for both treatment and for cancer prevention.
What’s next: The MEBCS team continues to carry out is main objectives to enroll breast cancer patients in the Middle East for genetic testing as well as to build and maintain the critical infrastructure required to expand the program to benefit more patients.
Because of support from BCRF and the work of the MEBCS investigators, genetic testing is now routinely undertaken for breast cancer patients at most major Palestinian hospitals. Cancer-predisposing mutations in patients are identified, patients are counseled, and their sisters and daughters are tested as well. New cancer-causing mutations have been identified, and information about them will be useful not only for these families, but to women worldwide with the same sorts of mutations. In addition, the MEBCS has leveraged the technical capacity developed for genetic testing of patients into genomic profiling of tumors, by partnering with providers of these services in the U.S. and Europe.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Advancing the understanding of the genetic mutations that predispose diverse groups of women to breast cancer.
Impact: Genetic analysis and medical follow-up services for breast and ovarian cancer risk are among the best in the world for Jewish women in the Middle East. However, no such services existed for women of other ancestries in the same region. The Middle East Breast Cancer Study (MEBCS) aims to address these disparities. The goals of the study, led by Drs. Moien Kanaan, Ephrat Levy-Lahad and Mary-Claire King, are to understand the inherited breast cancer risk among Palestinian and Arab-Israeli women and to establish the necessary infrastructure for cancer genetics services for women in this population.
Current investigation: genetic testing is now routinely undertaken for breast cancer patients at most major Palestinian hospitals. Cancer-predisposing mutations in patients are identified, patients are counseled, and with support from the patients, their sisters and daughters tested as well. New cancer-causing mutations have been identified, and information about them will be useful not only for these families, but to women worldwide with the same sorts of mutations. In addition, the MEBCS has leveraged the technical capacity developed for genetic testing of patients into genomic profiling of tumors, by partnering with providers of these services in the U.S. and Europe.
What they’ve learned so far: The MEBCS team has conducted genetic testing of more than 1,200 breast cancer patients of Arab ancestry. It is the largest cohort of Arab women in the world to undergo such testing. They have also created training programs in cancer genetics for Palestinian nurses and social workers to increase awareness and acceptance of genetic counseling in Palestinian women and their families.
What’s next: The MEBCS continues to carry out is main objectives in the next year of funding to:
- Identify the spectrum of mutations responsible for inherited susceptibility to breast cancer in the Middle Eastern population.
- Conduct genomic analysis of severely affected Palestinian families with no mutation in any known breast cancer gene.
- Assess cancer risks in families with mutations with genetic testing of both affected and unaffected relatives.
- Perform pathology of tumors from patients with mutations.
- Enlarge the infrastructure for breast and ovarian cancer genetics services in the Palestinian Authority.
Dr. Kanaan is a Professor of Molecular Genetics in the Department of Life Sciences, Faculty of Science at Bethlehem University, Palestine and Director of the Bethlehem University Hereditary Research Laboratory (HRL), which he established in 1992. Over the last 18 years his laboratory has been investigating the genetically isolated Palestinian population and its high rate of genetically-based diseases, with a focus on hereditary hearing impairment (HHI).
Dr. Kanaan’s laboratory uses current approaches in genetics, genomics, cell biology and biochemistry in studying inherited hearing loss in a large extended Palestinian cohort and has contributed to profiling a broad spectrum of novel mutations in many genes known to cause hearing loss. His current project with Ephrat Levy-Lahad and Mary-Claire King builds on his prior work and will focus on the mutation profiling of breast cancer in the a high –risk Palestinian population. Dr. Kanaan is recognized as a leading Palestinian geneticist. He has many publications to his credit and is a recipient of many research and scientific awards. He has participated in many international research efforts and scientific networks.