NCI focuses on genetic risk in breast and prostate cancer

March 23, 2006

Capitalizing on the momentum generated by advances in human genomic research, the National Cancer Institute has launched an initiative to identify genetic alterations that make people susceptible to prostate and breast cancer.

Capitalizing on the momentum generated by advances in human genomic research, the National Cancer Institute has launched an initiative to identify genetic alterations that make people susceptible to prostate and breast cancer.

The program represents the largest, most comprehensive undertaking to identify the genetic risk factors for cancer, according to NCI deputy director Anna D. Barker, Ph.D.

"This project promises to provide a needed database to support the development of novel strategies for the early detection and prevention of these diseases," Barker said.

To facilitate and encourage research, the data will be available to the cancer research community via NCI's cancer biomedical informatics grid caBIG.

The caBIG program has four virtual workspaces: in vivo imaging, clinical trials management systems, integrative cancer research, and tissue banks and pathology tools.

The new initiative, Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility (CGEMS), is a three-year $14 million project that will begin with the scanning of 2500 genetic samples from men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer and men who have not.

Previous studies have successfully identified single gene mutations that cause cancer or are linked to other inherited diseases. These studies provided early insights into the potential mechanisms of inherited cancer susceptibility, but these mutations are rare in the general population and directly related to only a small proportion of human cancer.

Most human cancer risk appears to be due, at least in part, to mutations that have low penetrance, meaning that they convey a low risk for cancer. But combinations of these mutations increase risk. One of the main goals of CGEMS is to identify genetic alterations that contribute to cancer risk, particularly the common low-penetrance, low-risk mutations.

CGEMS has incorporated important follow-up studies in its design. Promising genetic mutations will be analyzed and validated in a series of large population-based studies. The validated genetic culprits will be investigated further to develop new strategies for prevention, earlier detection, and treatment of these cancers.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Cancer imaging workspace solicits participation

PACS takes on unfamiliar research role in cancer project

Cross-sectional imaging correlates with gene expression in renal tumors

Task force says no to routine genetic testing