Researchers at Duke's Comprehensive Cancer Center and the United Kingdom's Institute for Cancer Research announced in the December issue of the journal Nature that they had located a second breast cancer susceptibility gene. Named BRCA2, the gene likely accounts for the majority of inherited breast cancers not caused by BRCA1, the breast cancer susceptibility gene identified in 1994 by a team led by Mark Skolnick of the University of Utah and Myriad Genetics, Inc.

"This finding means that we really are narrowing in on this dreaded cancer," says Barbara Rimer, chair of the National Cancer Advisory Board and professor of community and family medicine at Duke. "But it makes it more important than ever that we learn how to counsel women about their options and how to develop clinics to provide support services for the women who may carry breast cancer genes." The principal investigators are Duke Medical Center's P. Andrew Futreal and Michael Stratton of the Institute for Cancer Research in Surrey, England.

As with BRCA1, the researchers say they expect that women who inherit BRCA2 may have up to an 85 percent chance of developing breast cancer. Members of families with the BRCA2 gene also seem to be at greater risk for several other cancers, including male breast cancer, prostate cancer, and ocular melanoma. Unlike BRCA1, however, inheriting a defective copy of BRCA2 does not appear to put women at a significantly greater risk of developing ovarian cancer, although the risk is still higher than the general population, the researchers say.

A total of 182,000 U.S. women and 29,000 women in the United Kingdom were expected to develop breast cancer in 1995, according to estimates from the American Cancer Society and the United Kingdom's Cancer Research Campaign. Researchers estimated that about 5 percent of the breast cancer cases result from inherited genetic mutations.

"BRCA1 seems to be responsible for about half of inherited breast cancers," says Futreal, an assistant research professor of surgery and assistant professor of genetics. "Our findings strongly suggest that BRCA2 accounts for most of the remaining 50 percent." (Futreal has been involved in the discovery of both breast cancer genes. As a member of the Skolnick team, he cloned BRCA1 last year.) With the help of physicians in five countries, Futreal and Stratton studied a series of families with multiple cases of early-onset breast cancer that did not have mutations in BRCA1. The researchers do not yet know whether BRCA2 plays a role in the development of sporadic, or non-inherited, breast cancers.

While BRCA1 testing is not yet commercially available, physicians at Duke have been using a test for that gene in an experimental program to evaluate how best to counsel at-risk women. Because having a mutated copy of either BRCA1 or BRCA2 could make it difficult to obtain insurance or employment, it is important to pair testing with counseling and support services.


Two separate studies at Duke have found ways to keep older people socially engaged and, as a result, perhaps improve their quality of life. One technique relies on new technology--the Internet--while the other draws from a more traditional source--the church.

The Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development is conducting an ongoing study at Durham's Methodist Retirement Community to measure whether older people feel less lonely and more socially in-volved if they use e-mail and the Internet. Center associate Heidi White says that if the project improves people's moods and overall well-being, it could be expanded to other retirement communities, assisted living units, or nursing homes.

"Many people who live in retirement communities have children and grandchildren who are on e-mail, and it is a relatively cheap way of communicating long distance. Plus, there are a lot of things on the Internet now specifically for senior adults, travel information and other things they might be interested in," White says.

The idea for the project came from Herb Halbrecht, a retired business executive from Connecticut who moved to Durham, in part, to take classes from the Duke Institute for Learning in Retirement (DILR). Halbrecht says he noticed that some of his fellow retirees had hearing problems and other physical disabilities, and thought access to a com-munication mode such as the Internet would help them feel connected to the world. He approached DILR director Sara Craven, who helped put the idea into action.

An anonymous donor bought three Macintosh computers and a hired assistant trained the Methodist Retirement residents, who have free access to the Internet through Duke. Three Duke students regularly visit the community to answer computer-related questions. Residents have tapped into World Wide Web sites dealing with such topics as quilting and bonsai plants, and initiated cor-respondence with computer-savvy children and family members who don't write "snail mail" letters.

The second study, conducted by Duke psychiatrist Harold Koenig M.H.S. '90, found that older people who attend religious services are both less depressed and physically healthier than those who worship at home. "Church-related activity may prevent illness both by a direct effect, using prayer or Scripture reading as coping behaviors, as well as by an indirect effect through its influence on health behaviors," Koenig says. "For example, active religious participation may indirectly prevent health problems due to poor diet, substance abuse, smoking, self-destructive behaviors, or unsafe sexual practices, because these activities are discouraged by most religious groups."

People who pray only at home do not enjoy the same mental or physical health benefits as those who attend church, the study found, in part because they may be too ill to attend services. In turn, physical illness can contribute to depression. But poor physical health alone does not explain why those who pray at home had higher rates of depression, since the study showed they actually had greater social support systems than the church-goers--a phenomenon that researchers hope to explain through further research. The study also found higher rates of depression among people whose only religious activity was viewing religious television, and higher rates of physical illness among both religious television viewers and those who prayed at home.

The study was the largest random sample of community-dwelling adults (versus those in nursing homes or institutions) ever conducted, as well as the only study to examine the links among three distinct religious behaviors (church service, private prayer, and religious television viewing), social support, and mental and physical health. Koenig presented the findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February. The study was based on data drawn from a multi-pronged survey of people sixty-five and older sponsored by the National Institute on Aging.


Seven faculty members received undergraduate teaching awards in December. The honorees cover a variety of disciplines and a variety of ideas about teaching, but they all share a commitment to the exchange of knowledge and learning that is at the core of the university's teaching mission.

Gustavo PŽrez Firmat, an award-winning author, scholar, and professor of Romance studies, is the fourteenth recipient of the University Scholar/Teacher Award, Duke's highest teaching award. Described in The Washington Post as "at the vanguard of Hispanic studies," the Cuban native came to Duke in 1979.The award was created in 1981 by the Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church for the purpose of "recognizing an outstanding faculty member for his or her dedication and contribution to the learning arts and to the institution." It carries a $2,000 stipend.

The Richard K. Lublin Distinguished Award for Teaching Excellence was established in 1992 by Lublin '61, a member of Trinity College's board of visitors. As the college's top award for teaching, it recognizes the contributions of outstanding Trinity College teachers. Each of the two awards includes a $5,000 stipend. This year's winners are Women's Studies director Jean O'Barr and Romance studies professor David Bell.

The Trinity College Distinguished Teachers Awards honor recipients for their efforts to encourage intellectual excitement, their knowledge of the field, their skill in organizing courses and communicating with students, and their commitment to teaching. Three awards are given: one in the humanities, one in the social sciences, and the Robert B. Cox Award in the Natural Sciences. The winners are assistant professor of the practice of computer science Owen Astrachen, assistant professor of the practice of drama Jody McAuliffe, and assistant professor of political science Peter Feaver.

The Howard Johnson Distinguished Teaching Award was established by the Howard Johnson Foundation to recognize distinguished teaching by professors in Trinity College. The award carries a $3,000 stipend. This year's winner is religion professor Thomas McCollough.


Experiments at Duke Medical Center have shown that alcohol severely disrupts a biochemical process associated with memory formation in young animals, but that alcohol is much less potent in brain tissue from mature animals. According to researchers, the findings provide compelling scientific evidence upon which health policy and laws aimed at preventing underage drinking may be based.

"Until now, we have had no hard scientific data to back up our alcohol laws for young people," says principal investigator H. Scott Swartzwelder, Duke psychology professor and a research scientist at the Durham V.A. Medical Center. "It's always been a moral message or an authoritarian message. But now we can say to young people that even occasional and moderate drinking might impair your brain's memory systems more than it would an adult's."

The new study, published in the December issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, builds upon results published last spring by the same Duke researchers. That study demonstrated that even small amounts of alcohol severely depress the activity of receptors on the surface of nerve cells in the immature brain responsible for processing new information.

"Children and teenagers are at the time of their lives when they are acquiring huge amounts of information," says Swartzwelder. "At this particular point in life, the brain is more plastic and susceptible. This also happens to be the time of life when there is a great deal of pressure to drink alcohol."

Now that the researchers have demonstrated the negative effects of alcohol at the physiological level, the next step is to conduct experiments on living rats of different ages to determine the effects of alcohol on the animals' behavior. Collaborating with Swartzwelder on the studies were research professor of pharmacology Wilkie A. Wilson Ph.D. '71 and pharmacologist Mohammed Tayyeb '89.


Duke's board of trustees, meeting in February, approved a 4.9 percent increase in the cost of an undergraduate education for returning students, from $26,344 in 1995-96 to $27,629 in 1996-97. Tuition will increase 5.2 percent, room charges 4.8 percent, and board charges 3.6 percent. The cost for first-year students represents a 5.3 percent increase, including a fee, applicable to first-year students only, in support of new recreational facilities. The student-endorsed fee will go toward the renovated and enlarged Memorial Gymnasium on East Campus.

University provost John Strohbehn told the trustees that the increase "is the minimum necessary to sustain the academic quality of our undergraduate programs." He said this will also allow Duke to continue its policy of ad-mitting undergraduates without regard to their ability to pay, and to meet all their demonstrated financial need.

Duke, like other schools, faces expenses that normally increase faster than the rate of inflation. These include such things as financial aid, deferred maintenance, laboratory and computer costs, and the pressures associated with attracting and keeping high-quality faculty.

Tuition rates also increased in the graduate and professional schools. The divinity school faces a 5.1 percent increase to $9,000 a year; the Fuqua School of Business up 6.2 percent to $23,150; the graduate school up 10.2 percent to $16,400; the law school up 5 percent to $22,250; the medical school up 10 percent to $24,650 for incoming students; the Nicholas School of the Environment up 10 percent to $16,500 for incoming students; and the nursing school up 4 percent to $18,364.

Among the newest trustees is Robert K. Steel '73, who has been elected to succeed retiring board member Kenneth G. Younger Jr. '49. Steel is a Goldman Sachs & Company partner who is responsible for the company's Institutional Equities management in the United States, and is a member of the firm's operating committee. He has also served on the boards of various New York and London stock exchanges. He has maintained strong ties with Duke as a member of the board and the executive committee of the Duke Management Company, and the Provost's Advisory Committee on International Affairs.

Senior Shavar Jeffries is the new young trustee. He is chair of the Major Attractions Committee of the Union and has also served as president of the Black Student Alliance. The young trustee, who is elected by the Duke Student Government, serves a three-year term on the board of trustees, the first year as a non-voting member and the last two years as a member with full voting privileges. The position was created in the early Seventies by then-President Terry Sanford to increase student involvement on the board. DSG selects one young trustee each year.

Susan Timberlake, a third-year biomedical engineering student, was elected as the Graduate and Professional Student Council (GPSC) representative to the board. She has been involved with a number of GPSC committees, the Student Affairs Committee of the board of trustees, and as a representative to the board of the University Union. GPSC selects a trustee every three years.


A $5.15-million package of grants to the university from The Duke Endowment will help boost financial aid, improve campus facilities, and strengthen the faculty in 1996. Individual grants in the package will provide operating funds for the Benjamin N. Duke Program, help upgrade and renovate campus buildings and classrooms, fund teaching positions, and enhance computing on campus.

The Benjamin N. Duke Program, developed jointly by the university and The Duke Endowment in 1985, will receive $1.4 million. The program provides both merit-based and need-based scholarships to students from North and South Carolina. An additional grant of $1.55 million will provide funds for need-based undergraduate financial aid, and will fund a variety of projects for facilities upkeep, ranging from roof repairs to renovating classrooms in order to take advantage of modern instructional technology. The grants package also includes $800,000 to support and expand DukeNet, the university's high-speed computer network.

A $750,000 grant will provide endowment for the Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans professorship in drama, and provide initial funding for a distinguished visiting international scholar/ ambassador. The two positions honor Mary Semans '39, Hon. '82, chair of The Duke Endowment and a university trustee emerita, and James Semans, a university professor emeritus of surgery, both of whom are longtime supporters of international arts and education.

Duke University is the principal beneficiary of The Duke Endowment, the Charlotte-based philanthropic organization established in 1924 by industrialist James B. Duke, the university's founder. The Duke Endowment ranks among the nation's largest foundations, with assets of about $1.5 billion. In 1995, the endowment approved grants of more than $51.2 million to eligible colleges, universities, hospitals, children's homes, churches, and pastors in the Carolinas.


Jane Alexander, actress and chair of the National Endowment for the Arts since 1993, will deliver the 1996 commencement address May 12. She will also be awarded an honorary doctorate of arts.

Since becoming chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, Alexander has visited communities in all fifty states and Puerto Rico; met with civic, corporate, and elected officials about the arts; and delivered more than 150 public speeches outlining her vision for the agency. Taking up President Clinton's challenge to "renew America," she has spoken out on how the arts can contribute to education reform and the building of communities.

Under Alexander's leadership, the NEA began a partnership with the Corporation for National Service to create the "Writers Corps," a part of the national force of AmeriCorps volunteers. Alexander also worked to strengthen the long-standing relationship between the NEA and the Department of Education for arts education research and development.

Alexander has been active in the arts for more than thirty-five years as an award-winning actress, producer, and author. She has performed in forty films, numerous television programs, and more than a hundred plays. She earned a Tony Award for her role in The Great White Hope, an Emmy Award for Playing for Time, and a Television Critics Circle Award for her portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt in Eleanor and Franklin: The White House Years.


  • George Wright Ph.D. '77, William R. Kenan history professor and director of the African and Afro-American Studies program, has accepted the position of provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington. Wright worked for more than a decade at the University of Texas at Austin before coming to Duke in 1993. English professor Karla Holloway is the African and Afro-American Studies program interim director.
  • Walter Dellinger, a Duke law professor serving as assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, was appointed solicitor general, effective July 1. He joined the Justice Department in 1993 and was top adviser to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.
  • Leonard Spicer, University Distinguished Service radiology professor since 1983, was elected to chair the Academic Council, Duke's faculty senate. He succeeds botany professor James Siedow.
  • Brenda Armstrong '70, an associate profes-sor in the medical school, was named director of admissions and associate dean of Duke's School of Medicine. A pediatric cardiologist, Armstrong is active in minority affairs both at the medical center and the university. She is chair of the medical school's minority affairs committee and is a member of the Academic Council Committee on Black Faculty.
  • Robert O. Keohane, Stanfield Professor of International Peace at Harvard, will join the Duke faculty July 1 as James B. Duke Professor of Political Science, with a joint appointment as professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment. Considered one of the foremost scholars in the field of international relations, he has made his home in Durham since the summer of 1993, remaining on the Harvard faculty and commuting to Cambridge during the week. Keohane, the husband of Duke President Nannerl O. Keohane, has been a Kenan Fellow at the National Humanities Center at Research Triangle Park.

Copyright 1996 Duke University. All rights reserved.
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