Genome wide association studies (GWAS) have so far identified more than 20 common low penetrance variants for ovarian cancer; but it is estimated that thousands more risk variants await discovery. In the post-GWAS era a complex set of challenges for the identification, functional characterization and utility of susceptibility alleles have emerged including: (i) Identifying the causal genetic variants and regulatory targets driving cancer development at risk loci; (ii) Identifying the susceptibility genes associated with risk variants; (iii) Establishing if there are common biological networks that explain the functional mechanisms underlying multiple risk loci. Clinically, identifying the genetic risk component of ovarian cancer will likely lead to improved disease prevention through population screening and disease prevention strategies; and understanding the function of risk loci may lead to the discovery of clinical biomarkers and novel targeted therapies, analogous to the paradigm of PARP therapy for BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation carriers. The current proposal is designed to address many of these challenges for ovarian cancer in the post- GWAS era including: (1) Identifying additional novel, common variant susceptibility alleles for the different histological subtypes of ovarian cancer; (2) Establishing the functional mechanisms driving disease at ovarian cancer risk loci based on the identification and characterization of the likely casual SNPs and targets susceptibility genes are risk loci; (3) Using genome wide profiling of functional models based on perturbation of ovarian cancer susceptibility genes, to identify common mechanisms and biological pathways driving tumorigenesis; (4) To integrate functional datasets with genetic association datasets to improve the power of these studies to identify additional ovarian cancer susceptibility loci.

Public Health Relevance

for Lay Audience Genetic studies have founds hundreds of common genetic variations in the population that affect a person's risk of a multitude of different diseases including cancer, for most of these variants, we neither know the functional reasons why they cause disease, nor the genes that are the biological targets. In this proposal, we plan to use a combination of functional assays, genetic information and computational methods to work out the function of known genetic variants that influence ovarian cancer risk. We anticipate that these approaches and the methods we use can work out the function of genetic variants and genes that cause disease, leading to clinical benefits to individuals in the population.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Nelson, Stefanie A
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Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Los Angeles
United States
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Phelan, Catherine M (see original citation for additional authors) (2017) Identification of 12 new susceptibility loci for different histotypes of epithelial ovarian cancer. Nat Genet 49:680-691
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Kar, Siddhartha P; Adler, Emily; Tyrer, Jonathan et al. (2017) Enrichment of putative PAX8 target genes at serous epithelial ovarian cancer susceptibility loci. Br J Cancer 116:524-535
Jones, Michelle R; Kamara, Daniella; Karlan, Beth Y et al. (2017) Genetic epidemiology of ovarian cancer and prospects for polygenic risk prediction. Gynecol Oncol 147:705-713