23andMe Co-founders Announce Breast Cancer Initiative

23andMe is marking the 23rd anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October with an initiative to build a web-based forum dedicated to helping women who face the disease.

Co-founders Linda Avey and Anne Wojcicki told science and business leaders at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit today that we will be creating a specific breast cancer network within 23andWe, the research division of 23andMe.

“Great strides have been made in targeting treatment for breast cancer,” said Linda Avey. “We’d like to build on this progress, and we believe that by creating a web-based forum that enables women to share their experiences, the entire community could benefit and more personalized treatments may ultimately be an outcome.”

Women whose lives have been touched by breast cancer will be able to come together, share their knowledge and offer advice. They will also have the opportunity to participate in surveys that will be used to drive genome-wide association studies aimed at finding out more about the genetic factors that contribute to breast cancer.

“Women who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer can learn a tremendous amount from women who have already been treated,” said Anne Wojcicki. “By combining the ability to participate in research with the ability to learn from each other, 23andMe hopes to make a significant contribution to this community.” Breast cancer can affect both sexes, but it is mainly a concern for women–one in eight will face the disease at some point in her lifetime. The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2008 about 182,500 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, and close to 40,500 will succumb to the disease.

  • We’ve found about 5,000 SNPs for breast cancer in whites. Our “fishing net” of 16K SNPs is highly efficient. In fact, we found a similar number of SNPs associated with all 6 cancers we looked at: breast, colon, lung, ovary, pancreas, and prostate.

    Perhaps 23andMe would like to join forces with us. The six cancers our cancer Healthchip(r) covers make up 2/3 of new cancer cases in whites, excluding skin cancer. And our SNPnet(tm) should work for most of the additional cancers, and perhaps even the remaining ethnic groups.

    If not, we have a larger version SNPnet(tm), consisting of 80K SNPs covering the entire genome.

    Best regards,
    Dave Moskowitz MD FACP
    GenoMed, Inc. (GMED.PK on OTC Pink Sheets)

  • We’ve published a good podcast about doctors, lawyers, and patients discussing BRCA testing and breast cancer at HelixGene: CliniCast #1: How Genomic Medicine Is Changing the Management of Breast & Ovarian Cancer. It’s free online, check it out and subscribe to our podcast.