BRCA Research & Cure Alliance

Categories: Summer/Fall 2022

BRCA Carriers More Likely to Develop Prostate Cancer

New Foundation Launched to Discover Better Ways to Prevent, Detect, and Treat BRCA Related Cancers

CureBRCA Group Portal
BRCA Research and Cure Alliance-the first meeting.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are genes that produce proteins that help repair damaged DNA. Everyone
has two copies of each of these genes—one copy is inherited from each parent. BRCA1 and
BRCA2 are sometimes called tumor suppressor genes or “caretaker genes” because their
function is to repair DNA. Harmful variants, also called “mutations” in BRCA1 and BRCA2
increase the risk of several additional cancers. For those who carry a “pathogenic” (disease-
causing) BRCA mutation, the chances of developing prostate cancer are as high as 25%.

Dr. Catalona on The BRCA Research & Cure Alliance (Cure BRCA)
“I am delighted to have been involved in the planning phase of this exciting research initiative.
Through the generosity and philanthropic spirit of Tania and Michael Polsky, this new
foundation will bring together leading medical researchers from around the world to focus the
latest research methods and technologies to unravel some of Nature’s secrets about the
development and progression of cancer, using BRCA-related prostate cancer as a working
model.”

Michael Polsky knows this fact all too well. Both his father and grandfather died of prostate
cancer. He later learned that he was at risk for developing cancer himself, because he tested
positive for a BRCA mutation. This was the not the first time, he or his wife, Tanya, encountered
and tackled an obstacle.

Michael immigrated to the United States in 1976, as a refugee from the former Soviet Union
from Ukraine, with little money and less than fluent English skills. Although he had trained as an
engineer at Kyiv University Polytechnic Institute, he struggled to find a job utilizing his
professional training. Nevertheless, he worked diligently and even completed an MBA degree at
the University of Chicago at the time he started his first business. Between 1985 and 2000,
Michael founded two companies that laid the foundation for his current venture, Invenergy,
now the largest privately held energy provider in North America.

Tanya and Michael Polsky 5
Tanya and Michael Polsky

Tanya Polsky is also from Ukraine and graduated with top honors from Izmail State University of
Humanities. After immigrating to the United States, Tanya earned an MBA from Northwestern
University. Tanya worked in finance before transitioning to a life dedicated to philanthropic
activities and volunteer work spanning education, women’s rights, immigration, and cancer
research.

Tanya and Michael’s humble roots ignited their strong passion for “giving back”. They have
committed to infusing this same spirit of volunteerism into their children. As parents, the
Polsky’s model the behavior they want their children to emulate; they lead by example in their
commitment to a life of service. The family has worked together on projects to benefit those in
need, often volunteering together.

The Polsky family strives to expend their time and energy where they feel they will make the
largest impact; they often seek areas that are overlooked or that are not supported by other
sources, needs that are unmet.

One of those unmet needs are those affecting men with a pathogenic BRCA mutation. This is
what inspired the launch the BRCA Research & Cure Alliance (CureBRCA). Michael states: “The
Polsky family is very excited to launch the BRCA Research & Cure Alliance (CureBRCA). With a
family history of BRCA mutations, we are acutely aware that this is a hereditary disease that
increases the risks of developing BRCA related cancers, and we have unfortunately witnessed
this firsthand. We, therefore, want to help contribute toward finding the best possible
outcomes for those affected by BRCA.” He went on to say: “Although there has been a lot of
work accomplished for women with BRCA, there has not been nearly enough focus on men who
are affected by BRCA. We need to do more. We hope that by creating CureBRCA we can
educate, support research, and bring together the world’s best experts, to help find better ways
to diagnose, prevent, and treat cancers caused by BRCA mutations.”

The Foundation, just launched in 2022, held its first strategy meeting in early June and brought
together nationally prominent medical personnel, clinicians, researchers, oncologists, and urologists. One purpose of the meeting was to identify unmet patient and scientific community
needs with group discussions centered around needs related to prevention, screening,
detection, treatment, and survivorship.

The results of the meeting discussion and post-meeting surveys identified a need for more
research funding for BRCA and BRCA-related cancers. The group felt that awareness of the
impact of BRCA mutations in men, genetic testing, and identification of cohorts of men with
BRCA mutation(s) for further study were some of the greatest unmet areas.

“Funding BRCA-related research has the potential to improve lives, particularly of those who
have inherited genetic variants that pose such a risk to them, their families, and the world they
can make better by their presence,” stated Ken Offit, MD, MPH, Chief, Clinical Genetics Service,
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center who attended the meeting.

Heather Cheng, MD, PhD, Director of the Prostate Cancer Genetics Clinic at the Fred Hutchinson
Cancer Center, Associate Professor of Medicine (Oncology) at the University of Washington,
academic medical oncologist and research investigator in the area of prostate cancer genetics,
believes that progress in research in prostate and BRCA-related cancers in men can be
accelerated by applying lessons learned from the study of breast and ovarian cancers. Dr.
Cheng further states that this work is “…inspiring and energizing. We are on the cusp of
proceeding to the next level. It is exciting to be part of shaping the framework and creating new
ways of promoting collaboration and healthy competition.” Dr. Cheng added that men who
carry BRCA mutations need a central repository to find information that will inform them about
the importance of screening and their cancer risk (50% of carriers are men, but the historical
focus on women means that more dedicated education to include men is needed).

The BRCA Research & Cure Alliance (CureBRCA) is unique in its focus on BRCA-related cancers in
men and in its venture philanthropy approach. The Foundation aims to provide help where
needed, not duplicating current noble efforts of other worthy charities. Analysis of input gathered from the June meeting will inform the development of a model to be used in the
strategic deployment of resources and in determining the next steps for the Foundation. The
website (curebrca.org) will be launched soon and will provide up-to-date information on efforts
to prevent treat, and cure BRCA-related cancers.

Close to 1 million people in the United States are estimated to have a BRCA mutation, but fewer
than 10 percent are aware that they have a mutation that increases their risk for cancer.
Consult your doctor to learn about your risk factors and get a genetic test. The knowledge of
your DNA may save your life or the life of a family member who may also carry the mutation.

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