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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       Jan. 12, 1996 V4, #5
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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World's Flattest Rechargeable Battery Developed

The Weizmann Institute of Science at Rehovot has developed the world's flattest rechargeable battery and is receiving queries from around the world, including the Siemens Corp. It uses a solid, rather than a liquid, electrolyte, saving space and is ideal for portable electronic appliances and instruments, including computers, cellular telephones and video cameras.

Christopher and Assad will Discuss the Golan

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

US Secretary of State Warren Christopher has arrived in Damascus for today's talks believed to be crucial to the future of the Israel-Syria peace negotiations. Christopher calls this a critical moment in the negotiations. He declined to say exactly what Israeli proposals he has brought to Damascus, but says he didn't come empty-handed.

One Israeli official says the proposals include the expansion of talks to cover a variety of specific issues -- such as security arrangements and water rights -- with experts in those fields joining the delegations. That would likely include military generals and would cover the same issues which brought the talks to a standstill in the middle of last year. Israel wants security guarantees after a withdrawal from the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in 1967.

Christopher's last trip to the region, in December, resulted in the resumption of the direct Israel-Syria talks in a new format, at a secluded site outside Washington. The talks recessed last week after what both sides have called a good start. Diplomats hope this shuttle will result in an agreement to resume those talks before the end of the month.

Jewish Women Found Prone to Breast Cancer

By David McAlary (VOA-Washington)

US researchers have discovered that the risk of breast and ovarian cancer might be much higher in Jews of Eastern and Central European ancestry than in the general population. The scientists have found a relatively common genetic defect in this group that may predispose many Jewish women to the diseases, and possibly Jewish men to prostate and colon cancer.

The Ashkenazim of Central and Eastern European origin -- who make up most American jews and half of those in Israel -- are prey to a unique set of genetic ailments. Now, cancer of the breast and ovaries might be added to the list.

Scientists at the US National Institutes of Health near Washington say this population is prone to a defect -- or misspelling, as they call it -- in a breast cancer gene discovered last year. Francis Collins heads the National Center for Genomic Research, one of two NIH branches involved in the finding.

"What is being reported here is that in a particular population -- in this case, the Ashkenazi Jewish population -- there is a specific misspelling that turns up over and over again at a surprisingly high frequency of about one in 100."

This single chemical defect is five to eight times more frequent in Ashkenazi Jews than all other known defects in this gene are in the overall population. The researchers suspect it might account for 16 per cent of breast cancers and 39 per cent of ovarian cancers in Jewish women under 50. This is roughly four times the rate of the other mutations in women at large.

Another difference is also significant: while mutations in this gene are usually found in families with an inherited susceptibility to breast cancer, the newly-discovered defect was found in unrelated people.

Because it is a single defect in a specific location in a single population, the National Cancer Institute's director, Dr. Richard Klausner, says a genetic screening test should be easy to develop.

"The discovery that's being announced is important because it raises the feasibility essentially for the first time of testing for a genetic predisposition to cancer in a defined population."

But Klausner warns that testing people now would be premature because researchers need more time to learn whether the incidence of the defect is the same in larger groups of Ashkenazim and, if so, what its association with cancer is.

"We need to know whether the presence of this alteration in this gene conveys to an individual who carries that alteration an increased risk of developing cancer. Additionally, of course, this mutation is carried equally in the population presumably by men and women. We need to know whether only women may be at risk for cancers such as breast and ovarian cancer, and/or whether men that carry this mutation are also at an increased risk for cancer."

Evidence from cancer-prone families shows that men who have defects in the breast cancer gene may have an increased risk of prostate and colon cancer.

The questions about the genetic mutation could take years to answer. For this reason, Patricia Barr -- an Ashkenazi Jew and breast cancer survivor who leads a US public interest group devoted to the issue -- says Jewish women should avoid demanding screening until the relationship between the mutation and cancer are better understood.

"The results presented are not -- are not! -- cause for Ashkenazi Jewish women to seek private breast cancer genetic testing. We simply don't know enough."

Further research is planned with a study of this defect in a group of 5,000 Ashkenazim living in a Washington suburb. The NIH also plans research in Poland to see if it is present in non-Jewish people who are historically related to Ashkenazim by region.

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