Principal Investigator: Dr Robert Bentham
Institution: University College London (UCL)Tags: 53781, cancer, evolution, HLA, immune, immune-editing
What determines whether someone develops cancer or not? Over 36 months we aim to investigate the role of the immune system in this process.
The immune system can recognise and kill cancer cells. To propagate and grow, cancer has to escape this recognition using different mechanisms. Cancer is well known to vary incredibly between patients as well as within an individual tumour, but the immune system however is also incredibly genetically varied. How someone’s immune system functions is largely determined by three genes HLA-A, HLA-B and HLA-C. Of these three genes there are thousands of different variations known as alleles, and with there being two alleles of each gene in each person genomes the ‘HLA type’ of any two non-related people is likely to be different.
Knowing a patient’s HLA type is important for many new types of cancer treatment including immunotherapy. It is not well known however how exactly a person’s HLA type determines the general course and evolution of cancer as a disease. We hypothesise that there may be some combinations of these HLA genes that are more able to recognise and kill cancer types leading to a lower incidence of cancer in this population.
Part of the challenge of answering this question is that there are so many different HLA types possible. By using a large dataset such as the UK biobank and grouping similar HLA types together we hope to overcome this and if a person’s HLA type can be shown to be predictive of cancer risk it will provide a very useful tool enabling increased monitoring of high risk populations.