Integrative germline and somatic cancer genetic epidemiology

We are a research group based at the Early Cancer Institute in the Department of Oncology at the University of Cambridge.

With the support of funding awarded in 2020 by UK Research and Innovation and Cancer Research UK, we primarily study inherited or germline genetic variation and leverage this variation to investigate the causes, consequences, and correlates of key somatic or tumour genomic aberrations responsible for driving cancer development and progression. Somatic genomic aberrations are the changes to the genome that are acquired over the course of life. The ultimate aim is to use insights from this work to inform the prevention, early detection and treatment of common cancers.

We are also involved in the search for inherited genetic risk factors that are pleiotropic or shared across some of the major hormone-related cancer types -- specifically breast, prostate, ovarian, and endometrial cancers -- and also shared between cancers and their risk factors. Cross-cancer pleiotropic genome-wide association studies may offer unique opportunities to build multi-cancer risk prediction and stratification tools to better target early detection interventions at scale in advanced health systems. This aspect of our work is funded by a R01 grant awarded in 2022 by the US National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute. Finally, our research on clonal haematopoiesis forms part of the "Specalized Center of Research" for myeloid cancer prevention at Cambridge, which is jointly funded by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of the US and Blood Cancer UK.

Between October 2020 and February 2023 we were based in Bristol at the Medical Research Council Integrative Epidemiology Unit, which conducts some of the UK's most advanced population health science research. In March 2023 we moved to Cambridge to the Early Cancer Institute, the UK's only institute dedicated to early cancer biology and detection (with two members of our team continuing as an integral part of the team, but remaining in Bristol). Our lab is located on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, the largest centre of medical research and health science in Europe.

We are a highly collaborative research group and maintain particularly close links with the Vassiliou group at the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, the Easton and Antoniou groups at the Centre for Cancer Genetic Epidemiology, Cambridge, the Burgess group at the MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge, the Relton group at the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, Bristol, the Lawrenson, Jones, Gayther, and Pharoah groups at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, the Schildkraut group at Emory University, Atlanta, the Freedman group at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, the Dikshit and Mhatre groups at the Tata Memorial Centre in Mumbai, India, and the Quiros group at the ISPA in Oviedo, Spain.

Our research is computational, leverages large-scale 'omics and clinical data, involves application of a spectrum of statistical methods, and makes extensive use of bioinformatic tools. You can learn more about some of our ongoing work on a recent blog and podcast that we did with the scientific communications team at the Sanger Institute.