Fibroids affect 77% of women by onset of menopause in the U.S. and account for $2.1 billion in healthcare costs each year. Fibroids negatively impact reproductive health causing heavy and painful menses, pelvic pain and pressure, pregnancy complications, and interventions including myomectomy and hysterectomy. Until recently, tumor tissue and cell culture studies investigating fibroid growth have been the primary sources for understanding fibroid pathophysiology. Genetic analysis can provide a powerful and cost effective tool to identify etiological and causal factors, especially since a genetic predisposition to fibroids has already been documented from twin studies. As much as 69% of risk is explained by genetic factors. Racial disparities also support a role for genetics with fibroid risk. African American women have earlier age of onset, more numerous and larger fibroids with a greater lifetime incidence compared to Caucasians. We propose to identify genetic markers for risk of fibroids through a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of African American and Caucasian participants, leveraging ancestral differences to narrow down genomic regions for targeted follow- up analyses. To accomplish this we will take advantage of a unique Vanderbilt resource, the BioVU DNA databank. BioVU currently has over 122,470 adults linked to electronic medical records. From BioVU we have already identified 2,902 African American and Caucasian subjects who meet our stringent inclusion criteria to conduct a GWAS of fibroids, including pelvic imaging. Available imaging is critical, because many women with fibroids are asymptomatic and without imaging, studies may misclassify as many as 51% of women. We have also defined definitive controls who reached menopause without fibroids. We have a strong group of nationally known fibroid researchers who will provide over 10,000 samples for replication. Our first Specific Aim is to conduct a GWAS for association between common single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and fibroid risk. Using a case-control design we will perform a GWAS in 2,902 (1,451 fibroid cases and 1,451 controls) women from BioVU stratified by African American and Caucasian race. Secondary admixture mapping (AM) analyses will also be performed to identify chromosomal regions of interest to prioritize for replication.
Our second Aim i s to resequence chromosome regions identified from GWAS and AM to discover rare variants. Finally, in Aim 3 we will replicate SNPs selected from Aim 1 and 2 in independent samples of at least 3,230 fibroid cases and 7,097 controls. We propose an efficient and cost-effective approach to identify genetic risk factors for fibroids, by taking advantage of imaging information and DNA available through BioVU. This study represents the largest GWAS of uterine fibroids and the first among African Americans leveraging emerging technologies and new statistical approaches to conduct this study. Our proposed study will fundamentally change knowledge about fibroids and lay the ground work for breakthroughs in understanding mechanisms of fibroid formation and in identifying novel therapeutic approaches.
Even though fibroids are heritable and there is a known disparity in fibroid risk, the literature about the genetics of fibroids remains meager. Little progress has been made relative to other complex diseases, despite federal research agencies including the NIH, NICHD, and AHRQ recognizing fibroids among their priority women's health topics. This proposed genome-wide association study that includes leveraging ancestry for targeted fine mapping, targeted next-generation resequencing experiments, and larger-scale replication will be a crucial contribution to knowledge about the genetics of uterine fibroids.