An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
By City of Hope | July 14, 2020
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City of Hope's Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., has been awarded the Research Professorship in Breast Cancer Disparities by Conquer Cancer, the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Foundation.
 
The Research Professorship provides funding to full professors who have made significant contributions to cancer research and are dedicated to mentoring the next generation of researchers.
 
Weitzel, founder of City of Hope’s Division of Clinical Cancer Genomics, Cancer Screening & Prevention ProgramSM and Cancer Genetics Education Program, will receive $500,000 over the next five years to support his research project, “Multimodal approach to address disparities in access to genomic cancer risk assessment, screening and precision prevention among underserved women in the Americas.” 
 
In groundbreaking studies, Weitzel’s team demonstrated a high prevalence of recurrent mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA) genes among both U.S. Hispanics and Mexicans. Genetic cancer risk assessment results in prevention of cancers and enables earlier stage at diagnosis in BRCA carriers. Unfortunately, there is significant disparity in that BRCA gene testing is not widely available in Mexico. The proposed study is highly innovative, as it seeks to address disparities, shifting clinical practice paradigms in underserved Hispanic populations by demonstrating the effectiveness of genetic cancer risk assessment in low resource settings. The science developed in this project will help establish a framework for further dissemination in Latin America and other low resource settings such as rural communities and safety-net hospitals in the U.S. The project uses epidemiologic work and an innovative laboratory team to develop novel, low cost genetic screening tools.
 
As a leading genetics researcher, Weitzel has devoted his career to helping people and populations at increased risk for developing cancer because of family history or personal risk factors. Along with longtime colleague Kathleen Blazer, Ed.D., M.S., they used an award winning training program to overcome barriers in low resource settings in the U.S., including safety-net hospitals in Chicago, Phoenix and Los Angeles, and have also trained doctors and nurses for underserved populations in Peru, Colombia and Mexico.
 
A vital member of the City of Hope team since 1996, Weitzel's expertise spans multiple disciplines. His clinical, research and training programs cover cancer risk assessment, targeted therapy, clinical and psychosocial outcomes, and “chemoprevention,” or the use of drugs to lower the risk of developing cancer. Weitzel and his colleagues were recently awarded an $8.5 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to advance research and treatment for Li-Fraumeni syndrome, which can cause multiple cancers, including sarcomas, brain and breast tumors, and adrenocortical cancers.
 
The 2020 Research Professorship in Breast Cancer Disparities is supported by the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The awards were given in conjunction with the recent 2020 ASCO Virtual Scientific Program.