JACOB International

HADASSAH - Boca Sabra Chapter

by Iyar Sivan – May, 2006

Jacob International, which is an acronym for Jews Against Cancer of the Breast, is a non-profit organization, was created specifically to help save the lives of Jewish women who might have inherited a gene mutation which predisposes them to breast and ovarian cancer. One in 40 Ashkenazi Jewish women carries a mutation in their BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene. If one has a mutation in their BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene, they have a 33 % -50% risk of developing breast cancer by age 50 and 56 % - 87% by age 70. Also, those with a BRCA mutation have a 27- 44 % chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70.

We want to save lives. It is said in the Talmud, he who saves a life, it is as though they saved the entire world. Why do some Ashkenazi Jews carry these gene mutations? It is believed that these mutations can be traced back hundreds of years to their common ancestors, or founders. As the result of numerous intermarriages among Jews, all of today's Ashkenazi Jews are descended from a very small group of Jews who lived in Eastern Europe 500 years ago. These "founding Ashkenazis" carried the particular BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations which were subsequently passed on to their descendants.

Today a simple blood test can detect the presence of this mutation. A family's medical history (including generations) is a very important component in determining whether the blood test is right for you. Genetic coun¬seling is also available today to help individuals assess their risk component for mutations in their BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene. This information can be vital to your health care as you can reduce your risk up to 96% with appropriate medical intervention.

Jacob International was formed after Lori Sklar was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 47 and she learned that she had a mutation in her BRCA 1 gene;. Lori felt compelled to educate Jewish women about their risk because she recognized the power of this knowledge. It is important for us to share her story so it does not become your story or the story of future Jewish generations. If someone had counseled or educated her, she could have taken preventive measures to reduce her risk. Based on Lori's BRCA 1 mutation, she took all necessary surgical steps to further reduce her risk of a reoccurrence of the breast cancer and even the potential risk of ovarian cancer.

However, Lori's story continued a year later with the diagnosis of leukemia. The leukemia was the result of her chemotherapy to treat Stage I breast cancer. There was a one-half of one percent (.005%) chance of getting leukemia from the type of chemotherapy that was prescribed, Lori's leukemia was of an aggressive nature and she needed a bone marrow transplant for a cure. After fighting the leukemia (in and out of remission) and other medical complications for many months, on November 3, 2005 Lori obtained a bone marrow transplant at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance/Fred Hutchinson Research Institute in Seattle. She is in complete remission.

Lori is alive because of G-d's love, her persistent and total faith in G-d and the unconditional love of her family, religious congregation, friends of many faiths and many other people whom she never met. These individuals, through the power of prayer brought her through this journey. Her story, as arduous and difficult as it sounds, is a victory of spirit, faith and G-d's love.

If her doctor, the Jewish community, her family or a friend had educated her on the benefits of genetic testing, she could have dramatically reduced her risk of breast cancer and been spared her fight with leukemia. However, Lori's travel along this arduous journey had a purpose and Lori formed Jacob International (Jews Against Cancer of the Breast) as a vehicle to educate and break the cycle of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

If you need more information or wish to volunteer in their cause, please contact Lori and her husband, Bill, at info@jacobintl.org or at 561-394-9100. The web site for Jacob International is www.jacobintl.org and the website for the general population is reachglobal.org.

 

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