Examples of ongoing projects include:
Two Sister Study: Funding secured through Susan G. Komen for the Cure has enabled the Branch to undertake a family-based study of young-onset breast cancer (PI, Weinberg) built on the cohort recruited for the Sister Study (PI, Sandler). This study includes a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer under age 50 and her control sister who was identified through the Sister Study cohort. Available parents provide DNA samples through mail-back saliva collection kits, and genotyping is being completed to allow a genome-wide assessment of genetic variants related to the risk of young-onset breast cancer and of composite factors that will promote healthy survival following treatment. Statistical methods developed in the Branch will enable a robust and powerful analysis that allows estimation of exposure effects and multiplicative gene-by-environment interaction effects. More than 1500 families have been enrolled.
Establishment of the infant micro-biome: Gut microbes play important roles during early development. For example, they are involved in the establishment of oral tolerance (ability for the immune system to recognize ingested substances and to weaken or suppress the immune response to them), maturation of the immune system, regulation of intestinal angiogenesis and stress responses. As society becomes more hygienic and as the rate of cesarean deliveries and use of antibiotics increases, there may be disruption of the natural establishment of infant gut microflora, with possible implications for risk of immune-related diseases in childhood. By characterizing the evolving composition of gut microflora during infancy and relating those patterns to later health outcomes, this project will provide insight into the roles of this important internal environment.