Amidst all the change and upheaval of the last year, one thing that remained constant is our unwavering commitment to creating a better future for BRCA mutation carriers. I’m proud of all the ways the Basser Center for BRCA at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center met the challenges of this moment head on. We expanded our use of telemedicine to ensure that the pandemic did not disrupt access to care and connectivity. We continued research and scientific discovery, strengthening the foundation for the breakthroughs of tomorrow.
Our brave patients and families are the heart of all that we do; they inspired us to persevere through one of the most difficult periods in history. It is this dedication, strength, and tireless focus — even under the most trying of circumstances — that is helping Basser to change the treatment, prevention, awareness, and research landscape.
Since our founding, we have raised over $100M for this life-saving work, and built a robust endowment to ensure Basser will be a resource for BRCA-affected families for generations to come. This is only the beginning!
The Basser Center was an early proponent and practitioner of telemedicine, but the events of 2020 brought telehealth to the forefront in a way it hadn’t been before. In addition to continuing our research and expanding our outreach, we found ways to enhance our use of this vital, virtual practice.
Basser rose to the challenge of COVID-19 by adjusting treatment delivery to ensure that patients still received the highest quality of care. Research and discovery continued uninterrupted and the shift to telemedicine allowed patients to safely receive virtual guidance and counseling. In fact, these changes helped expand Basser’s reach — to 25% more patients in 2020 than in 2019.
In March, Basser Center Genetic Counselor Jacquelyn Powers, MS, LCGC, introduced a Basser blog series documenting the genetic counseling program’s transition from in-office to telehealth video chat or phone call appointments. Telehealth genetic counseling is not new, but, in 2020, it became an invaluable service to patients everywhere, to offer a safe and effective counseling experience when COVID-19 restricted in-person care. Throughout the blog series, Powers and others in the field discussed how this adjustment became an invaluable solution to a worldwide problem.
Each year, the Basser Center recognizes a leading scientist who has advanced BRCA1/2-related research. In 2020, Bella Kaufman, MD, the Director of the Breast Oncology Institute at Sheba Medical Center in Tel-Hashomer, Israel, became the recipient of the 8th annual Basser Global Prize.
Sadly, Dr. Kaufman passed away on May 12, 2021, from metastatic breast cancer. A brilliant and tireless physician, BRCA-related cancer researcher, and advocate, Dr. Kaufman was a giant in the field whose work transformed the lives of patients. She will be truly missed.
Established and endowed by Shari and Len Potter
I am very excited to receive the 2020 Basser Global Prize. It is indeed a great honor to be amongst the list of extremely talented people who have contributed so much to the advancement of breast cancer research and treatment.
The Pearl and Philip Basser Innovation Research Award seeks to honor an early career investigator conducting innovative BRCA-related research at the Basser Center. Kim Reiss Binder, MD, received the 2020 award to support her work studying the use of PARP inhibitors as a frontline treatment for BRCA-related pancreatic cancer.
Established and endowed by Philip B. Basser and the late Pearl Basser
The Basser Center supports the best science at institutions around the world and this collaborative approach is the key to achieving our vision of the future.
Aura Carreira, PhD
Institut Curie Research Center in Paris
Neil Johnson, PhD
Research Institute of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia
Stephen Pettitt, PhD; Christopher Lord, DPhil; and Andrew Tutt, PhD, FRCR, MRCP, MB, ChB
Institute of Cancer Research in London
In 2020, the Basser Center made enormous strides in our efforts to ensure patients have easy and equitable access to genetic testing. Our improvements in digital health platforms, electronic medical records, and advocacy will enable us to move closer to realizing this goal by 2025. We also hope to have completed enrollment in key prevention trials, an important step toward preventing BRCA-related cancer altogether.
By 2030, Basser will continue to improve our understanding of BRCA, allowing us to overcome chemotherapy resistance, develop new targeted therapies for mutation carriers, and have better medications for managing metastatic breast cancer. We also plan to have more data on the effectiveness of removing just the fallopian tubes as a preventative measure for ovarian cancer, offering patients protection without triggering menopause and its myriad side effects.
Despite a pandemic that has challenged us all, Basser has remained focused on the fight against BRCA-related cancers and has been ahead of the curve in many ways. From leveraging telehealth infrastructure to reach even more patients while also working to end disparities in health, Basser’s commitment to advancing this crucial work is truly inspiring.
Even during this most challenging of years, Basser was able to establish the Alissa Reiner McCreary Endowed Professorship, contribute to addressing racial health disparities in the United States, and pivot online to offer panel conversations, events, and researcher-led discussions.
Alissa Reiner McCreary was an inaugural member of the Basser Center Advisory Board and a passionate volunteer and supporter of Basser’s work. To those who knew and loved her, she was so much more: a loving mother and devoted wife, a beloved daughter who was civic-minded and kind, a voracious reader and a world traveler. In 2016, Alissa passed away at age 49 from BRCA-related pancreatic cancer, but her influence and support of Basser’s mission continues today.
In 2020, Trace McCreary, Alissa’s widower — who has served on our Advisory Board since her death — and Peter and Harlan Stone, her stepbrothers, generously established an endowed professorship to assist in the recruitment and retention of distinguished faculty members at the Basser Center. These funds empower the Basser Center’s physician-scientists to expand knowledge and develop treatments to improve patients’ lives, while paying tribute to Alissa for her incredible advocacy and support.
In creating the Alissa Reiner McCreary Professorship in BRCA Excellence, the McCreary and Stone families join a proud legacy of benefactors. Since the first endowed chair at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania was established in 1877, far-sighted donors have understood the considerable value they bring to sustaining scholarship, accelerating research, and advancing care.
Kim Reiss Binder, MD, was given the 2020 YLC Young Investigator Award for her work studying the development and testing of new treatments for pancreatic cancer and other GI malignancies. “This is a population that doesn’t have many options to treat one of the deadliest forms of cancer,” Dr. Reiss Binder says. “To be able to offer a targeted therapy with much less toxicity, even if only for a subset of our patients, would be a wonderful thing.”
The Basser Center for BRCA’s Young Leadership Council hosted a panel on racial health disparities, moderated by women’s health advocate Alejandra Campoverdi and with the participation of Basser oncologist Payal Shah, MD, and YLC members Ashley Dedmon and Nicole Garcia.
In 2020, the Basser Center never wavered in its mission to expand outreach, offering multifacted education programs to underrepresented communities, and supporting initiatives such as LATINX & BRCA and Black & BRCA. Now, we are adding a summer internship for undergraduate students from minority groups underrepresented in medicine to help inspire future leaders.
LATINX & BRCA was founded in 2019 in partnership with women’s health advocate Alejandra Campoverdi to raise awareness, provide education and resources in Spanish, and build a support system for the Latinx community affected by BRCA mutations and related cancers. In 2020, we recorded a video with Alejandra, “Raising Awareness of BRCA and Hereditary Cancer in Latino Communities,” in support of LATINX & BRCA and Hispanic Heritage Month.
Read this Q&A with Eli Lopez, an attorney, mother of two small children, and a BRCA1-mutation carrier. In 2019, Eli decided to undergo a preventative double mastectomy and, now, she is helping others facing similarly difficult choices, particularly those in the Latinx and Black communities.
Black women are substantially less likely to undergo genetic counseling and testing for BRCA mutations compared to white women, even though research suggests that the rate of BRCA mutations may be higher among Black women. In 2020, the Basser Center launched our Black & BRCA initiative. To coincide with the launch, we recorded a conversation between Basser Young Leadership Committee co-chair, Erika Stallings, and Payal Shah, MD, on racial disparities in hereditary cancer.
When she tested positive for a BRCA1 mutation at age 28, Mackenzie Alleman searched the internet for support groups but didn’t find what she was looking for. So, she became a patient advocate and started the Philadelphia chapter of The Breasties. Read how Mackenzie found support and community through Instagram.
We are excited to launch a new summer internship program in 2021 for underrepresented minorities pursuing a career in genetic counseling, clinical genetics, and basic science. The goal of the program is to expand the pipeline of underrepresented minority candidates pursuing these careers. The eight-week, rotating internship will provide an experiential learning opportunity for four interns and expose them to several areas related to cancer genetics, including DNA damage repair, basic science research, ovarian cancer research, cancer genetics and genomics research, and clinical experience in genetic counseling and care of high-risk patients.
The Basser Center is focused on supporting BRCA-affected families, increasing awareness, and accelerating research to one day find a cure. Basser will not stop until there are better outcomes and game-changing preventions. We know if anyone can make this wish come true, it’s the team at Basser.
The Basser Center Advisory Board (BCAB) advocates, informs, and engages on behalf of the Basser Center. The board enhances and supports the Center’s mission and provides hope to patients and families by securing the resources needed to accelerate BRCA-related research, care, and education. Learn more about our Board members.
The Parents Leadership Community (PLC) is a group of parents supporting their children who are facing BRCA1/2 mutation-related issues. The PLC serves as a supportive forum for parents while also providing a resource to stay informed about the latest advances in BRCA research and care. Learn more at basser.org/PLC.
We are grateful to Susan and David Getz for their support of our outreach and education efforts, specifically supporting the new Parents Leadership Community.
The Young Leadership Council (YLC) includes more than 125 members from around the world. The YLC disseminates information on research advances and amplifies the voices of its members while also educating them through informative webinars and panel discussions. Learn more at Basser.org/YLC.
Your support at any level benefits individuals and families affected by a BRCA mutation. Our philanthropic community enables pioneering research at Basser and around the globe, and enhances lifesaving outreach and educational programs.
*Gifts listed below are from January 1, 2020, though December 31, 2020, and reflect cumulative giving during that time.
In December 2020, Basser launched a Matching Gift Challenge. The support of our community was overwhelming, raising $553k in vital unrestricted funds for the Center.
Special thanks to our four generous matching gift donors: Darcy and Andy Nussbaum, Mara Burros-Sandler, Christine and Jordan Kaplan, and Lynn and Paul Lattanzio.
The Basser Center for BRCA has received many generous and thoughtful gifts in honor, memory, and celebration of the following individuals.