Local scientist to study diseases’ genetic roots
A Hawaii cancer researcher has received a four-year, $6.7 million grant to study genetic differences in people and how they relate to the risk of certain diseases.
Dr. Loic Le Marchand, director of the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii's epidemiology program, is one of four scientists sharing $31 million in grants from the National Human Genome Research Institute.
New research findings on genetic variations will be examined with comparisons between healthy people and those with cancer, he said in an interview.
The investigation will be based on the Multiethnic Cohort Study, a collaborative research program by the cancer research center and University of Southern California epidemiologists. They have collected information from 191,000 adults ages 45 to 75 from five racial groups in Hawaii and California: Caucasians, African-Americans, native Hawaiians, Japanese and Latinos.
Established in Hawaii and Los Angeles from 1993-1996, the study is one of the largest in the nation to explore the effects of diet, lifestyle and genetics on the development of cancer and other diseases.
So much information is available, the researchers hope to determine which genetic associations affect risk of cancer, diabetes, heart and other diseases, Le Marchand said.
Researchers will look at how differences in genes are related to a person's biological and physical characteristics, such as cholesterol and blood sugar levels, bone density and weight.
They will examine how diet, medications, smoking and other nongenetic factors might interact with genetic factors to influence outcomes, Le Marchand said. "In addition to geno-typing of samples we have, we want to characterize the participants for genetic variances."
The grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, is aimed at speeding the process through new research in large, existing studies of the causes and transmission of disease, such as the Multiethnic Cohort Study, the cancer research center reported.
Dr. Francis S. Collins, National Human Genome Research Institute director, said in a news release that data from the program will accelerate "ongoing efforts to translate genetic findings into new strategies for improving human health."