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Approved Research

Genetic Epidemiology of Cancer

Principal Investigator: Dr Sara Lindstroem
Approved Research ID: 70925
Approval date: November 8th 2021

Lay summary

Some types of cancers (for example breast and ovarian cancer) tend to co-cluster in the same family. It is not known how much of this co-clustering is due to shared environment versus shared genetics. Previous studies aiming to quantify the contribution of genetics to co-clustering of cancers have mostly been conducted in families. However, these studies often have small sample sizes and struggle to separate shared environmental influences from genetic effects. To overcome this problem, we have previously studied genome-wide genetic data from unrelated individuals, hypothesizing that if there is a true genetic basis to co-clustering of cancers, individuals who are more genetically similar should be more phenotypically similar as well. We found that many cancers share genetic risk factors that are common in the population. However, a big drawback with our previous research is that we relied on summary data rather than individual-specific data. Furthermore, we were limited to only study genetics rather than the joint effects of the genetics and the environment.

              We propose to conduct multiple studies to further understand the genetic contribution to cancer risk and mortality. We will leverage genetic, environmental and biomarker data from UK Biobank to study the genetic epidemiology of cancer. Specifically, we aim to (1) identify genetic risk factors for cancer risk and mortality; (2) characterize the genetic contribution to multiple cancer types; (3) study the joint effects of biomarkers, environmental and genetic factors on cancer risk and mortality; and (4) build cancer risk and mortality prediction models that incorporate genetic, biomarker and environmental data, to identify individuals at high risk.

We anticipate that the proposed research will lead to a deeper understanding of the genetic contribution to overall cancer risk and mortality. In particular, we expect that the proposed research will provide insights into general mechanisms involved in cancer development and mortality. Further, the proposed research will lead to a better understanding of the joint effects of environmental and genetic risk factors in cancer risk and mortality prediction.

We anticipate that the proposed research will take four years to complete.