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Approved Research

Causal inference for disease effect on cancer

Principal Investigator: Dr Rachel Melamed
Approved Research ID: 64071
Approval date: October 26th 2021

Lay summary

Cancer seems to arrive as a sudden calamity, but most cancers develop over a period of many years. Understanding factors that influence cancer development can help us predict or prevent cancer. As well, increasing our knowledge of cancer biology can help us treat it. One such influence on cancer is a history of certain common diseases, such as obesity and diabetes. A number of relationships of cancer with rare and common diseases have been reported, but so far no comprehensive study has sought to systematically identify changes in cancer incidence due to onset of common disease. In this study, we will perform a systematic assessment of the risk of cancer due to other common diseases using health data. Then, we will use genetic data as an independent way to estimate the effect of common diseases on cancer, as it is subject to a different set of biases. Finally, genetic data will provide a basis for identifying the biological processes altered by these diseases that impacts cancer incidence. This project will provide insight into cancer risk for people who suffer other diseases, potentially informing screening guidelines and precision medicine prognoses. As well, the results will illuminate the biology of the early stages of cancer development. The project also has the potential to suggest personalized therapies, as common inherited genetics will be mapped to specific cancer processes.