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Division of Genetics and Epidemiology

The Division of Genetics and Epidemiology is internationally renowned for its pioneering work in understanding the underlying genetic causes of cancer risk. High-quality laboratory, epidemiological and clinical research within the division is driven by energetic, innovative leadership and complemented by participation in national and international research consortiums, clinical collaborations and technological partnerships.

A pipette and a well-plate

The research leaders in the division – formed between the division and the Cancer Genetics Unit at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust – provide 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.

Head of Division

Professor Richard Houlston

Professor Richard Houlston

Professor of Molecular and Population Genetics

Professor Richard Houlston aims to identify and characterise the genes that cause cancer. Currently, he is acting Head of the Division of Genetics and Epidemiology. He is also a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Pathologists, the Institute of Biology and the Academy of Medical Sciences, and is co-editor at the British Journal of Cancer.

Research teams

Aetiological Epidemiology

Team leader: Professor Anthony Swerdlow

Professor Anthony Swerdlow’s Aetiological Epidemiology Team uses epidemiological methods to gain a better understanding of the causes of cancer.

Molecular and Population Genetics

Team leader: Professor Richard Houlston

Professor Richard Houlston’s Molecular and Population Genetics Team works to identify cancer susceptibility genes and understand how these can cause cancer.

Oncogenetics

Team leader: Professor Rosalind Eeles

Professor Rosalind Eeles’ Oncogenetics Team aims to translate laboratory findings about genetic risk factors for cancer, particularly prostate cancer, into the clinic.

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