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Approved Research

Metabolic and molecular pathways mediating the effect of modifiable lifestyle factors and multiple cancers

Principal Investigator: Ms Fernanda Morales Berstein
Approved Research ID: 73451
Approval date: November 30th 2021

Lay summary

Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Its burden is expected to increase in the coming years as populations age and increase their exposure to unhealthy lifestyle factors. Some risk factors are better established (i.e., smoking, obesity) than others (i.e., dietary factors), but overall, the mechanisms by which they influence cancer risk are not very clear. Suggested mechanisms include inflammatory cytokines, changes in the microbiome, insulin resistance, hormones and epigenetic changes.

We will use genetic data from the UK Biobank study and summary statistics from a wide range of cancer genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to explore causal pathways linking lifestyle factors and multiple cancers. We will specifically investigate pathways involving metabolites, amino acids, hormones, inflammation, insulin resistance, epigenetic changes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This will be done using a causal inference method called Mendelian randomization (MR).

We expect this project to last for approximately 36 months and lead to several publications.

This project will contribute to a better understanding of cancer aetiology. The identification of metabolic and molecular pathways that mediate the effect of lifestyle factors on the risk of multiple cancers could lead to the development of targeted prevention strategies and treatments.