Orcadians invited to find out about cancer gene linked to Westray

A leading geneticist is delivering a free talk in Orkney next month to discuss the discovery of a cancer gene linked to Westray and how testing for the gene could be expanded.

Clan Cancer Support will host the Wur Westray Connection event on Wednesday, November 22 at Orkney Arts Theatre, with Professor Zosia Miedzybrodzka of the University of Aberdeen and service director of the NHS Grampian genetics service confirmed as a speaker.

The award-winning scientist led the research which revealed earlier this year that one in 100 people with grandparents from the Orkney isle carry the BRCA1 gene. It can cause a higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

A pilot testing programme organised by NHS Grampian and funded by the Westray Development Trust currently offers a saliva test for the variant to those living in Westray with a Westray-born grandparent, but there are plans for testing to be more widely available.

Professor Zosia Miedzybrodzka said: “Westray Development Trust funding and the people of Westray have enabled us to rapidly move from reporting research to make testing available on the Isle in just three months. But we know the gene impacts far beyond Westray and it's time to get started on the next phase. I'd like to use our meeting to get community input on how to move forward.”

Clan Cancer Support has had a presence in Kirkwall for almost 15 years and launched a monthly drop-in service at the Hofn Youth Centre in Westray in April this year in response to the significance of the medical finding.

The drop in offers emotional and physical support to anyone concerned about the variant, including those who have tested positive for the gene or are worried about a loved one who has been affected.

The charity has organised the Wur Westray Connection event to inform people in the local community what the genetic discovery means to those with a Westray born grandparent and provide information on the support available.

Kay Johnston, Clan Cancer Support’s head of cancer support services said: “It has been almost eight months since this significant piece of research was made public and unsettled many people across Orkney.

“Clan has organised the Wur Westray Connection event to enable the local community to come together and find out more about the research and the testing and support options available to them.

“We are extremely grateful to Professor Zosia Miedzybrodzka for agreeing to share her expertise and advice with people and we hope that next month’s event provides a useful update for anyone who is concerned.”

The event will also feature a Q&A session compered by BBC Radio Orkney’s David Delday.

Wur Westray Connection will take place at The Orkney Arts Theatre on Wednesday, November 22. Doors open at 7pm for a 7.30pm start. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance by visiting:

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