Complex Trait Genetics Group

Dr Nick Orr and his team

Project details

Researcher: Dr Nick Orr

Location: The Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre, London

Project title: Complex trait genetics group

Key area: Prevention

The challenge

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.

Project description

Dr Nick Orr and the Complex Trait Genetics group use data from the Generations Study and the Male Breast Cancer Study to better understand how a person’s genetics influence their risk of breast cancer. The group also looks at the genetic factors influencing patients’ responses to different treatments.

Dr Orr’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 Orr’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.

Dr Orr is also leading the Male Breast Cancer Study, a study funded by Breast Cancer Now which is investigating the risk factors associated with breast cancer in men.

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