Vaughan secures $7.9 million for esophageal cancer research

National Cancer Institute grant to evaluate genetic susceptibility for Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma
Dr. Tom Vaughan
Dr. Tom Vaughan, Public Health Sciences Division

Dr. Tom Vaughan, an epidemiologist in the Public Health Sciences Division, has received a three-year, $7.9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to study genetic susceptibility for Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma, a rapidly fatal cancer whose incidence has increased more than 500 percent in the past 30 years, faster than any other cancer in the United States.

Vaughan and Dr. David Whiteman, Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia, will execute a large-scale genome-wide association study using pooled data and DNA from 18 epidemiological studies conducted by the Barrett’s and Esophageal Adenocarcinoma Consortium to determine how genetics interplay with known environmental and personal risk factors for these conditions, including obesity, heartburn and smoking.

“The results will aid us in identifying the biological pathways that contribute to this cancer,” Vaughan said. “That information will help direct our screening, prevention and surveillance efforts to those at highest risk.”

The Hutchinson Center’s Genomics Resource will do the genotyping for the study, their largest project to date. The University of Washington’s Dr. Bruce Weir will lead the statistical analysis team.

Genome-wide association studies involve a scan of common genetic markers across the genome in large numbers of individuals to find genetic variations associated with a particular disease. Early genome-wide scans have demonstrated considerable success in identifying genetic variants associated with common diseases.

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