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Rivkin Center Community Update

Dear Friends of the Rivkin Center:

“Women’s Lives. Our Passion”. This underscores the core meaning of what the Rivkin Center does and why Dr. Saul Rivkin started this organization over 20 years ago to help women with ovarian cancer. Today our mission includes funding the best ovarian cancer research in the world and educating women about ovarian and breast cancer. Thank you for your continued support and passionate commitment to our cause.

The past few months have taught our Rivkin Center community that nothing is constant and change must always be embraced with confidence. Adapting to the “New Normal” is not something we have experienced in some time in this country and the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is real and we have been coming together as a community to help fight the spread of this virus. This battle is far from over, but we can make changes at the Rivkin Center and pivot our efforts to continue our important mission to benefit the women we are committed to serve.

The Rivkin Center is engaged in the following steps to ensure that we all emerge as better stewards of our mission.

Serving our community

  • The entire Rivkin Center team is working remotely and following all the appropriate practices to prevent transmission of the virus. Our team is staying engaged through the use of various communication tools, connecting often and effectively. We look forward to connecting with you similarly, as appropriate.
  • We’ve worked with Dr. Dan Veljovich, Gynecological Oncologist and Rivkin Center Board Member to address questions from our patient and survivor community on how to manage care during the outbreak. We hope this will provide important information during these uncertain and evolving times. Read the FAQs of Cancer and COVID-19.
  • Our inaugural Teal Town Hall event is now rescheduled for September 12th at the Space Needle to bring together and celebrate our ovarian cancer patient and survivor community, and share the latest breakthroughs in ovarian cancer research and treatment We hope by September the event will be possible, but rest assured the health and well-being of our community is the first priority and we will evaluate accordingly.

Fueling ovarian cancer research

  • We are very excited to announce that we have completed our 2020 Scientific Grant Awards reviews and will be funding $810,000 in awards to nine talented and committed researchers, as ovarian cancer research cannot wait and work done now will help women in future years. The three Scientific Scholar Awards and six Pilot Study Awards funded this year address important areas of ovarian cancer research including novel treatments, overcoming chemotherapy resistance, immunotherapy, and developing a better understanding of disease to guide prevention and early detection efforts. Stay tuned for more details on these ground-breaking projects!
  • The Biennial Ovarian Cancer Research Symposium, presented in partnership with the American Association for Cancer Research, will bring together the international ovarian cancer research community from September 26-28. As the event is six months away, we are moving ahead with plans to hold the event in Seattle at the Hyatt Regency for now. We are also developing a contingency plan in the case we need to shift the format to a “Virtual Symposium” so that we can provide an important platform for the exchange of ideas and new knowledge on ovarian cancer. We will continue to monitor the situation closely to make decisions regarding format in a timely manner (by end of April).

Educating individuals on ovarian and breast health

  • We are disappointed that the pandemic forced the cancellation of nearly 100 Rivkin EDU programs on college campuses, in community settings and at workplaces this spring. We have been in communication with all workshop hosts and community/campus partners, and everyone is eager to reschedule their workshops as soon as we are certain it is safe to do so for all attendees, instructors, survivors, and ambassadors. We are using this time to reassess our education program strategy and plan for the future, including Digital Expansion, particularly given the unique time we are in.
  • We proudly launched a digital ovarian and breast cancer risk assessment quiz in December 2019, known as the Assess Your Risk tool on our website which serves to help identify individuals who are at risk for breast and ovarian cancer. Identifying individuals who are at high risk can have a direct impact on prevention of ovarian, breast, and other cancers in those individuals and their close family members. Please go to the site, take the quiz and tell other individuals you know about the quiz. We are working with an international consulting firm on our strategic plan for growth and distribution, scaling, and evaluation of the Assess Your Risk tool.

Raising vital funds through our signature events

  • At the Rivkin Center, the health, safety, and well-being of our community is top priority. With the evolving COVID-19 situation, we currently still hope to host our SummeRun & Walk for Ovarian Cancer in person on July 12, 2020. We are however in the process of preparing for changes that will enable a virtual event if necessary. We will be working closely with team captains as they sign-up and help drive this very important fundraising event for our organization to raise the vital funds needed to help the women who have fought, are fighting, or will fight this disease in the future. We will be in touch with more details. 
  • Our Family & Friends Auction has become a signature event of the year for the Rivkin Center as well as the party of the year. Last November we raised over $1.5 million through the great generosity of our community. We will need your help more than ever raising important funds for the Rivkin Center through this event – please save the date for November 7, 2020.

I am committed along with the entire Rivkin Center team to helping our community become an even stronger force in helping the women we serve live longer and healthier lives. We look forward to keeping in touch with you, updating you on our progress and continuing to be a leading funder of ovarian cancer research globally while educating women to understand their body and be in charge of their health. We are in this together.

Please stay cautious and stay well! If you have any questions about the Rivkin Center please feel free to call me at 425-503-7448 or email at joe.white@swedish.org.

Thank you,

Joe White, Executive Director
Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer

Talk to your Family

Talking to your family and identifying cancer in your family tree can be a good indicator of your health risks. Download our Family Tree Worksheet here.  Be sure to include yourself, children, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

Get Educated

Know your body and be proactive about your health. Learn about your breast and ovarian health. Learn about the risk factors and signs & symptoms for breast and ovarian cancer.

Trusted Healthcare Provider

Having a relationship with a health care provider you know and trust is one of the most important decisions you’ll make about your health care. Click here to find a provider

Higher Risk in the Ashkenazi Jewish Population

In the general population, around 1 in 400 people carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. People of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have a 1 in 40 chance of carrying a BRCA mutation, making them 10 times as likely to carry a BRCA mutation as someone in the general population. Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you have a BRCA mutation then there is a 50% chance of passing the mutation on to your children, whether they are boys or girls. It’s important to note that these mutations significantly increase risk, but are not a guarantee a person will get cancer.

Why is the Ashkenazi Jewish population at higher risk?

Over 90% of the BRCA mutations found in the Jewish community are one of three “founder mutations”. A founder mutation is a specific gene mutation in a population that was founded by a small group of ancestors that were geographically or culturally isolated. Because the population was isolated, the rate of founder mutations in descendants is much higher than it would be if the population were larger and co-mingling with more genetically diverse populations. A large expansion in the population caused the current high frequency of the mutations in the Ashkenazi Jewish population. If you are of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, the chance of carrying a BRCA gene mutation compared to the general population is increased tenfold. BRCA mutations can be passed down from either your mother’s or father’s side, and may be associated with any of the following cancers:
  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer, fallopian tube, peritoneal cancer
  • Male breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Colon Cancer

Ready to take action? Knowledge is power. Take this short quiz to be proactive about your health.

Genes 101

Our bodies are made of many tiny building blocks called cells. Our cells contain a copy of our genome – all of the DNA genetic code we inherited from our parents. Our genome is organized into 46 chromosomes, 23 inherited from mom and 23 from dad. Each chromosome has hundreds or thousands of genes. Each gene has the instructions to make a protein that may control the structure or function of cells, can determine many things including how tall we are or the color of our eyes. Genes also contain instructions for many things inside of us that we cannot see, such as how our bones are formed or how our heart works. Each gene is made up of molecules called nucleic acids (A, T, C, and G). The specific sequence of the nucleic acids holds the instructions that control all the components and their functions in cells.

If the DNA sequence is changed, like a spelling mistake, the instructions may not make sense. The technical term for this change is “mutation,” meaning there is a change to the usual genetic code that may change the instructions stored in the gene. A mutation in a gene that repairs DNA damage or controls cell growth can increase the risk of developing cancer.

Sporadic vs Hereditary Cancers:

Ovarian and breast cancer can be either sporadic or hereditary. Sporadic cancers make up the vast majority (85-90%) of ovarian and breast cancers and are not associated with family history of either cancer or inherited cancer-associated mutations. Sporadic cancers arise from genetic mutations acquired in some cells of the body by events part of normal metabolism and environmental factors. This type of cancer can happen to anyone. Most acquired gene mutations are not shared among relatives or passed on to children.

Hereditary (also known as inherited, or familial) cancers are those that occur due to genetic mutations that are inherited from mom or dad. Other blood relatives may also share these same gene mutations. Parents give one copy of each gene to their children. If a parent has a genetic mutation in a gene, each of their children have a 50% chance of inheriting that mutation. Therefore, even in families with hereditary cancer, not all family members inherit the mutation that is causing cancer, and their risk of cancer is similar to the average person in the general population. Individuals who are suspected to have a family history with high incidence of ovarian, breast, and other cancers may be offered genetic testing to try to find the specific genetic mutation that may put them at risk. Importantly, individuals who do not have a known genetic mutation but have high incidence of ovarian, breast, or other cancers in their families are still considered at higher risk for developing those cancers.

Hereditary cancers often occur at an earlier age than the sporadic form of the same cancer, so experts often recommend starting cancer screening at a younger age for individuals at high risk for hereditary cancer. Hereditary cancers can also be more aggressive than the sporadic form of the same cancer. Individuals who have inherited a gene mutation may be at a higher risk for more than one type of cancer.

BRCA 1 and BRCA 2: Most Common hereditary breast and ovarian cancer

The genes that are most commonly involved in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) are BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes are named for their link to breast (BR) cancer (CA), but they are also linked to ovarian cancer risk as well as other cancers. Both women and men can inherit mutations in these HBOC genes. BRCA1 and BRCA2 are tumor suppressor genes that have a usual role in our body of providing instructions on repairing DNA damage and preventing cancer. When a family has an inherited mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2, this leads to an increase in cancer risk. Not every man or woman who has inherited a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene will develop cancer, but people who have a mutation do have a significanlty increased chance of developing cancer, particularly cancer of the breasts or ovaries.

While breast and ovarian cancers are the most common cancers diagnosed in people with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations, the risk of some other cancers is also increased. Men with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations have a higher risk of early-onset prostate cancer than men without mutations in either gene. Other cancers seen at increased rates, particularly in individuals with BRCA2 mutations, include pancreatic cancer and melanoma. Researchers are continuing to find new genes that are involved in hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer so it is important to follow up with a genetic counselor on a regular basis if hereditary breast and ovarian cancer is likely in your family.

Talk to your family about your health history and take the Assess Your Risk quiz here

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