May 20, 2012 | Elena Perez
Jon and Mindy Gray recently donated $25 million to their alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, to fund a research center that focuses on gene mutations associated with ovarian cancer. Mindy Gray’s sister, Faith Basser, died at the age of 44 from ovarian cancer.
Faith Basser’s cancer was caused by an inherited mutation in the BRCA gene, a gene that is responsible for DNA repairs that help prevent cancer. BRCA stands for BReast CAncer; a mutated BCRA gene may result in the development of breast cancer or ovarian cancer. When Faith Basser discovered she had this type of ovarian cancer, her family searched for information about the gene mutation, but came up empty handed.
Mindy Gray did not disclose whether she inherited the same gene, but she has four daughters, and it’s likely that this mutated gene may be passed down to subsequent generations. Though mutated BRCA genes don’t always result in cancer, there is not enough research on the subject to determine why.
The center will be the first of its kind to focus on mutations of specific genes, the BCRA1 and BRCA2 genes. Scientists hope that the research will lead to advanced treatment options, preventative care, and ways to detect ovarian cancer sooner, since most ovarian cancers are not discovered until they are well advanced.
Dr. Susan Domchek is the current director of the MacDonald’s Women’s Cancer Risk Evaluation Center, where women can be evaluated to determine if they have BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. Dr. Domchek will be the executive director of the Basser Research Center, named after Mindy Gray’s sister.
The center is expected to open in July. For more information, visit penncancer.org/basser or call 1-800-789-PENN.