Research

Overview

Our research program takes a multidisciplinary approach to studying cancer genetics of individuals and families from various racial and ethnic backgrounds across the globe. Relying on both clinical and basic science research, our ultimate goal is to increase the speed at which laboratory research is translated into healthcare practices that directly benefit people, especially those populations that suffer from a disproportionate burden of cancer.

Our research is largely focused on identifying genetic mutations and molecular pathways that underlie cancer development and progression. In particular, we are interested in how such genetic factors explain variations in cancer among different populations around the world, especially those that remain understudied and suffer a disproportional burden of cancer. The ultimate goal of our research is to translate what we learn in the laboratory into clinical applications that improve methods for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer around the world.

The center serves to stimulate basic research in cancer genetics with emphasis on the discovery and characterization of genes involved in the development and progression of familial cancers.  The center enhances epidemiological research addressing gene-environmental and gene-gene interactions by facilitating collaborations between population and laboratory scientists, thereby combining access to large clinical and specimen databases with high throughput genetic analyses.  By bridging the gap between laboratory, clinical and population scientists, the Center enhances the understanding of the genetic basis of cancer and accelerates the translation of molecular genetic discoveries to clinical practice. 

Current research

The Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics has been playing an ever-increasing role in the development of clinical trials for women at high risk of breast cancer. Mammography has been the cornerstone of surveillance of breast cancer, but its effectiveness in young, high-risk women is unclear.

Recent studies suggest that magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be superior to mammography in the early detection of breast cancer for high-risk women. While the detection of early cancer may increase with MRI, the number of false positive cases requiring biopsy and/or follow-up may also increase.  This leads to increased medical costs and increased risks of injury due to unnecessary biopsies. Equally important, repeated visits may cause increased anxiety among high-risk women who may already have heightened baseline anxiety about their diagnoses.

Based on analysis of retrospective data, in collaboration with Drs. Newstead and Schmidt in the Department of Radiology, the center is now conducting a prospective screening program to assess the utility, cost, and quality of life outcomes of MRI screening in women at high-risk for breast cancer.

For more information on our current clinical trials, please click here.