Emeritus Professor of Oncology
University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Extensive efforts over the past seven years have identified about 100 of possibly hundreds of variants that relate to breast cancer, but we currently know very little about the relative risk associated with most of these genetic markers. Emerging research suggests that the genes are part of a complex interlocking series of networks, each influencing the other. The focus of Professor Ponder’s laboratory and his current collaboration with Dr. Kerstin Meyer is to map the control networks of all the genes in a breast cancer cell to identify clusters of gene variants that share common pathways. In this way they hope to identify “gene control clusters” involved in risk that can be used to develop new approaches for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer. In the last year, they have found that the controlling genes related to estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer are part of the same network, but with often opposing effects. The balance of these effects may be important in driving cancer development, and in the choice of treatment. The next step is to study the interplay between these two subnetworks and identify the regulatory mechanisms that govern their interaction. Findings from this work hold promise for the future and new approaches for prevention and therapy.
Bruce Ponder is Emeritus Professor of Oncology at Cambridge, former Head of Oncology and Director of the Cancer Centre, and was the Founding Director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Research Institute. He established one of the first clinics for familial cancer and contributed to gene discovery and genetic epidemiology in thyroid, breast and ovarian cancer. His focus is now on common genetic variation and cancer susceptibility. Over the past 10 years he has led the development of a new laboratory and clinical center for cancer research in Cambridge, culminating in 2007 with the opening of the new CRUK Cambridge Research Institute. From 2010-2014 he served as President of the British Association for Cancer Research, and was knighted in 2008 for "services to medicine".