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Investigating the genes involved in age-related cancer risk in Lynch Syndrome

  • Researcher: Professor Malcolm Dunlop
  • Institution: University of Edinburgh
  • Award Amount: £235,063 for 3 years from June 2012
  • Cancer Type: Bowel Cancer
Investigating the genes involved in age-related cancer risk in Lynch Syndrome
When people talk about a person's risk of developing cancer, genes are often a factor. Sometimes it is only one specific gene that makes the difference, other times it is many small changes to lots of genes. DNA is constantly being unzipped and copied in order to produce millions of new cells each day, but this means that there are many opportunities for the biological assembly line, which makes new DNA, to be broken.

This is called mismatch, like a shirt where the buttons are not lined up; the result is not the same as when the shirt is buttoned up correctly. A series of genes exist to fix these mismatches. Lynch Syndrome is a disorder where the genes that normally fix these mismatches are no longer able to do their job. People who have Lynch Syndrome are much more likely to get cancer, but the age at which this happens varies greatly from one person to the next. While people with Lynch Syndrome experience extensive surveillance to catch potential cancers early, both the patients and healthcare professionals would benefit if it was possible to predict at what age people would be more likely to get cancer.

Professor Dunlop has collected samples from a large group of people who suffer from Lynch Syndrome and will use his Worldwide Cancer Research grant to test for genes that could control the age at which people might develop cancer. This will also be compared with samples from the general population and be used to develop age-specific risk prediction, to be used for the clinical management of Lynch Syndrome.
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