New information found on genetic links to cancer

Faculty; Public Health; Research

New genetic analysis sheds light on hereditary elements across 12 cancer types, according to recently published research from the Brown School.

The new information has implications for improving the accuracy of existing genetic tests for cancer risk and eventually expanding the available tests to include a wider variety of tumors.

Investigators analyzed genetic information from more than 4,000 cancer cases included in The Cancer Genome Atlas project, an initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to unravel the genetic basis of cancer.

They found a surprising inherited component to stomach cancer and new clarity on the consequences of certain types of mutations in well-known breast cancer susceptibility genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2.

“Although still in its early stages, our study is one of the first large-scale analyses undertaken to identify rare inherited variants that potentially predispose toward cancer,” said Dr. Kimberly Johnson, assistant professor at the Brown School and co-author.

She said researchers were able to study both tumor and normal DNA sequences of cancer patients. “Integrated analysis of both tumor and normal DNA will allow for more rapid discovery of genetic variants that influence individual cancer susceptibility.”

The senior author was Dr. Li Ding, associate professor of medicine and assistant director of the McDonnell Genome Institute​ at Washington University.

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