$3M for Latino breast cancer genetics research

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Luis Carvajal-Carmona, an associate professor at The Genome Center, the UC Davis School of Medicine and the Comprehensive Cancer Center, is one of the three principal investigators in a research team of UCSF, UC Davis and City of Hope Investigators that has been awarded a $3M grant by the California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine. The project's title is 'Improving Precision Medicine for Breast Cancer in Latinas: A Multi-Tiered Approach.'

Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in women and about a third of the risk is accounted by genetic variation, most of which is still unknown. The Carvajal-Carmona lab is currently using genetics to identify novel causes of breast cancer, investigate pharmacogenetic responses and address health disparities among various populations. Interestingly, the risk of disease, as well as the way in which cancer presents, varies between populations. For example, women from Hispanic populations from the USA and Latin America tend to present with cancer at much earlier ages, suggesting the existence of genetic elements that are involved in disease predisposition. Furthermore, breast cancers in Hispanics are diagnosed at later stages, when compared to other ethnic groups, and generally have worse prognoses. Interestingly, previous studies have shown that the risk of breast cancer in Hispanics is associated with a higher European ancestry. Their group is currently engaged in similar studies in the Colombian population and is aiming to identify breast cancer genes using admixture mapping. At UC Davis, they are also currently planning to use next generation sequencing to identify new breast cancer genes in this population using exome sequencing. Future plans include studies on the pharmacogenetics of aromatase inhibitors, in collaboration with Dr. Helen Chew at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, and on functional genomics and epidemiology of variation in the DNA double-strand break repair pathway.

Professor Carvajal-Carmona, who is the co-Leader of the Population Sciences and Cancer Disparities Program and the Director of the newly established Latino Cancer Health Equity Initiative at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, had this to say:

We are delighted to have this collaborative grant funded by the Governors Office. Together with our existing National Cancer Institute funded studies on Latino gastric cancer genetics, patient-derived modeling in liver and gastric tumors and multiple myeloma etiology in African Americans, UC Davis is emerging as a national leader in precision medicine in minority populations

Dr. Carvajal-Carmona and his team will collaborate on developing polygenic risk in Latinas, and will also collaborate on outreach and education.