The four research leaders in the division are all medically qualified and the joint Clinical Academic Unit – formed between the division and the Cancer Genetics Unit at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust – provides exceptional opportunities to translate scientific discoveries for clinical benefit, particularly in the development of new ways of detecting people at increased risk of cancer and strategies to help them manage that risk.
Gene discovery research in the Division has been extremely successful, identifying genetic predisposition factors in a wide variety of cancers, including breast, ovarian, prostate, lung, testicular, brain, haematological and childhood cancers. The work has revealed important insights into the genetic architecture of cancer, and has identified both genetic and epigenetic factors that play an important role in determining cancer risk.
Researchers are also conducting several long-term epidemiological studies looking at how genetic, behavioural and environmental factors may affect cancer risk. The division hosts the Breakthrough Generations Study – funded by Breakthrough Breast Cancer – which is one of the world’s largest studies of the causes of breast cancer, involving more than 100,000 women across the UK.
A major initiative within the division is the Mainstreaming Cancer Genetics programme, funded by the Wellcome Trust, which is developing the technologies, informatics and implementation strategies that will allow cancer gene testing to become part of routine medical care. Its focus is on expanding gene testing for cancer patients and using the information to help shape their treatment, and to manage their and their relatives’ risk of future cancers.