More than 4,000 Alabama citizens learn cancer risk through HudsonAlpha genetic testing initiative


Posted on November 7th, 2019

(Nov. 7, 2019) Huntsville, Ala.  – The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology hosted its 11th annual Tie the Ribbons event today where more than 1,300 members of the community convened at the Von Braun Center to hear about the Institute’s breast and ovarian cancer programs.

Sara Cooper, PhD, gave an update on HudsonAlpha’s cancer research programs at Tie the Ribbons.

Tie the Ribbons is an annual luncheon that supports breast and ovarian cancer research and programs like Information is Power, a free and reduced cost genetic cancer risk testing initiative launched in 2015.

To date, 4,200 men and women have discovered more about their cancer risks through Information is Power, including Charles Horton, DVM, of Huntsville, Ala. After losing his daughter to breast cancer, Horton wanted to find out more about his cancer risk, and his grandchildren’s risk. He participated in Information is Power, and learned he carried  a mutation in the BRCA2 gene.

“My wife and I were both tested through Information is Power,” said Horton. “Cancer has been a common thing through the years in my family so we thought it was important to learn as much as we could about it. It’s a great service that HudsonAlpha provides and we are thankful for it.”

Marjorie Bermudez Bernal shared her ovarian cancer story at Tie the Ribbons.

Of the greater than 4000 participants, about 150 (3%) received a positive result, which means they have an increased risk of cancer. More than half of the participants with a positive test did not report a strong family history of cancer.

“That’s why this initiative is so important,” said Sara Cooper, PhD, HudsonAlpha faculty investigator and program leader for Information is Power. “This type of testing can help fill in those gaps for people who don’t know their family history and provide valuable health information for them and their loved ones.”

The test, developed by genetic testing company Kailos Genetics, screens for mutations in the well-known BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, as well as several dozen other genes linked to breast, ovarian, colon and other cancers.

“Our goal for this program was to spread awareness of the value of genetic testing and with the support of the community, we have been able to do just that,” said Troy Moore, chief scientific officer at Kailos Genetics. “We look forward to continuing to do so through 2020.”

Pammie Jimmar shared her breast cancer story at Tie the Ribbons.

Thanks to support from the Russel Hill Cancer Foundation, as well as community partnerships and philanthropic support, 51 percent of participants have been able to take the test for free.

The test is available for free to men and women between the ages of 28 and 30 residing in Madison, Jackson, Limestone, Marshall and Morgan County. It is also available at a reduced cost of $129 to individuals 19 and older.

Year five of Information is Power kicks off today and will continue while supplies last, which means individuals in North Alabama still have the opportunity to take advantage of this groundbreaking initiative. To order or gift an Information is Power test, visit information-is-power.org.

To support breast and ovarian cancer programs at HudsonAlpha, visit https://hudsonalpha.org/ttr-give/.

Breast and ovarian cancer patients and survivors shared their stories of hope in the following video shown today at Tie the Ribbons:

About HudsonAlpha: HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology is a nonprofit institute dedicated to developing and applying scientific advances to health, agriculture, learning, and commercialization. Opened in 2008, HudsonAlpha’s vision is to leverage the synergy between discovery, education, medicine, and economic development in genomic sciences to improve the human condition around the globe. The HudsonAlpha biotechnology campus consists of 152 acres nestled within Cummings Research Park, the nation’s second largest research park. The state-of-the-art facilities co-locate nonprofit scientific researchers with entrepreneurs and educators. HudsonAlpha has become a national and international leader in genetics and genomics research and biotech education and fosters more than 35 diverse biotech companies on campus. To learn more about HudsonAlpha, visit hudsonalpha.org.