Researcher: Dr Olivia Fletcher
Project title: Genetic Epidemiology group
Key area: Prevention
The best way to stop people dying from breast cancer is to stop it occurring in the first place. To do this, we need to be able to identify those most at risk of breast cancer and work out what we can do to prevent them from developing it. We know that our genetics play a key role in determining breast cancer risk, but we need to know much more about the specific genes involved and how they affect an individual person’s risk.
Dr Olivia Fletcher and the Genetic Epidemiology group aim to identify small changes in genes which put people at increased risk of breast cancer. They use data collected from the Generations Study to get a population-wide understanding of the role played by genetics in breast cancer risk. Identifying these genetic risk factors will enable us to determine those at risk, improve early detection of breast cancer and implement preventative strategies.
Dr Fletcher’s group is particularly interested in tiny changes to the genetic code, called single nucleotide polymorphisms, and how they can be used to predict an individual’s risk of breast cancer. These genetic markers could one day form part of a blood test to help accurately calculate a person’s risk of breast cancer. They are also trying to understand how and why certain genetic changes increase or decrease breast cancer risk.
What difference will this project make?
The genetic markers discovered by Dr Fletcher’s research could one day help to develop a test capable of accurately predicting a person’s risk of breast cancer. Understanding exactly how these genetic markers increase risk will also reveal useful insight into the biology of breast cancer which could help identify new treatments or interventions to prevent the disease from occurring.
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