Division of Genetics and Epidemiology
Head of Division: Professor Nazneen Rahman
The Division of Genetics and Epidemiology aims to understand the causes of cancer through the identification of predisposition genes, biomarkers, behaviours and exposures that influence cancer occurrence. Our multi-disciplinary approach is coordinated towards a commitment to translate discoveries into clinical practice through the Clinical Cancer Genetics Service at The Royal Marsden Hospital NHS Trust.
Current research in the Division includes:
- Five separate programmes seeking to identify cancer predisposition genes in breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer and childhood cancer. We are using the latest sequencing technologies to identify new genes and to characterise and then translate genes into the clinic.
- Several epidemiological studies investigating the causes of cancers and the long-term risks of cancer in people who have had particular diseases and/or potentially carcinogenic treatments.
- A multi-disciplinary research programme to identify biomarkers of cancer risk in combination with questionnaire-based information collected in large epidemiological studies of breast and bladder cancer.
- Clinical translational research in conjunction with the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Cancer, to translate discoveries into clinical practice through the Clinical Cancer Genetics Service that we run at The Royal Marsden.
Over the past 15 years researchers in the Division have successfully identified cancer predisposition genes in a broad range of cancers through analyses of our highly developed sample resources of familial, syndromic and population-based cancer studies of breast, colorectal, prostate, lung, glioma, leukaemias, testicular cancer and paediatric cancer cases.
We have successfully utilised new technologies as they have emerged to reveal new insights into the genetic architecture of cancer. In the linkage and positional cloning era we identified BRCA2, FH and several other genes. We have utilised candidate-gene resequencing to identify four breast cancer predisposition genes, one ovarian cancer gene and two childhood cancer genes. In the genome-wide association study (GWAS) era we have already identified common risk variants for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, lung cancer and leukaemias.
Our epidemiological studies aim to discover how behaviours and exposures may affect cancer risks in people and how this may vary according to their inherited predispositions. The biomarker research aims to provide insights into the biology underlying cancer formation and to improve risk assessment tools to assist in the development of targeted screening and prevention strategies.