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Research overview

Professor Olivia Fletcher, Functional Genetic Epidemiology Team

Our research builds on recent advances in breast cancer genetics to gain a better understanding of the biology of breast cancer risk with a view to developing novel risk-reduction strategies.

As genetic variants are effectively randomised at birth, genetic studies provide an unbiased methodology for identifying and characterising intermediate phenotypes (measurable traits associated with breast cancer risk) that influence risk. We combine genetic discovery with intermediate phenotype studies – including premenopausal hormone levels and the insulin-like growth factor (IGF) axis – to dissect the effects of individual genetic variants on pathways that influence breast cancer risk.

Given that breast cancer risk is strongly influenced by reproductive risk factors, we are prioritising genetic associations relevant to the protective effects of pregnancy and breast feeding; if we can understand the molecular basis of these protective effects, this may facilitate the development of novel risk-reduction and prevention strategies.

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