A fundamental goal of human genetics is to decipher the relationship between genotype and phenotype.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified thousands of common variants associated with
numerous traits and diseases; but for the vast majority of genetic associations the underlying functional
mechanisms are unknown. The key challenges in elucidating the biology underlying GWAS risk loci are: (i)
to identify the susceptibility gene(s) at risk loci and their functional role in disease pathogenesis; (ii) to identify
the causal risk variant(s) initiating disease development; and (iii) to establish the regulatory mechanisms by
which risk variant(s) affect target gene expression
An emerging feature of common variant risk loci is pleiotropy, where a risk locus shows evidence of
susceptibility to two or more phenotypes. Breast, prostate and ovarian cancers share common etiologies.
GWAS have so far identified more than 400 confirmed risk loci for these cancers. We have performed a meta-
analysis of breast, prostate and ovarian cancers identifying more than 100 novel pleiotropic risk regions that
suggest these cancers have a shared genetic component and similar underlying biology. Substantially larger
genotyping studies continue to be performed in the human population and for these cancers which will provide
the opportunity to identify additional breast, prostate and ovarian cancer pleiotropic risk loci. Our groups have
also developed functional assays, including chromosome conformation capture, CRISPR/Cas9 genome
editing, and experimental models of breast, prostate and ovarian cancer that enables us to establish the
underlying biology driving neoplastic development at these risk loci in these cancer types.
The overarching goals of this study are to identify shared genetic susceptibility alleles for breast, prostate and
ovarian (BPO) cancers driven by non-coding DNA variation, and to establish the shared functional
mechanisms that underlie disease risk for these cancers. The specific aims are: (1) To identify the credible
causal risk variants, regulatory targets and candidate genes at pleiotropic BPO risk loci; (2) To utilize functional
screening assays to prioritize causal risk variants, regulatory targets, and candidate genes at BPO risk loci; (3)
To determine causality for risk variants, candidate genes and regulatory elements at BPO risk loci.