Familial Cancer
We now know that some cancers are largely caused by lifestyle and environmental factors (like lung cancer is caused mostly by smoking), other cancers are caused by viral or bacterial factors (like cervical cancer is caused by human papilloma virus HPV), whereas some cancers are associated with faulty genes (like BRCA1 and BRCA2 in breast, ovarian, prostate and pancreatic cancers).

Knowledge of whether individuals have inherited these faulty genes can help individuals and their families make informed decisions about how to prevent cancers.
Of all the female cancers, ovarian cancer is less common than breast or cervical cancer, but it’s more lethal because unlike those two cancers where screening can aid in early detection, there isn’t an effective screening tool for ovarian cancer. Because of research led by CRMY researchers, we now know that 1 in 9 Malaysian ovarian cancer patients developed the disease because they inherited a faulty BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene.
Prostate cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in men in Malaysia, and we now know that 1 in 5 patients who have metastatic prostate cancer have inherited a faulty gene.
Our researchers aim to:
  • Develop affordable and accessible methods for genetic testing for hereditary cancer, so that patients can access effective and personalised prevention.

How we’ve made a difference

  1. Completed research showing that 1 in 9 ovarian cancers may be due to inherited alterations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. This information is now incorporated into the clinical guidelines for Malaysian doctors, and plays an important role in the development of cancer genetic services in Malaysia.
  2. Contributed to the discovery of more than 30 genetic loci implicated in increased risk to ovarian cancer. This was made possible thanks to the many researchers from all over the world who worked collaboratively to study thousands of ovarian cancer patients and healthy women. The Malaysian ovarian cancer genetics study has made a significant contribution since it is only one of a handful of studies focused on Asians.
  3. Worked with the International Prostate Cancer Association Consortium (PRACTICAL) and the Subang Aging Men’s Study to identify a number of genetic loci associated with increased risk to prostate cancer.
  4. Worked with investigators at the Institute of Cancer Research to show that a blood test screening for prostate cancer is useful for its detection in people with inherited alterations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.
  5. Completed the first mainstreaming study in Asia showing that training oncologists and surgeons to provide genetic counselling directly to patients (rather than referring them to a genetics service), increases access to genetics for patients all over the country.

What we’re doing now

  1. Together with the Ministry of Health, we are conducting a budget impact analysis and are working towards increasing access to genetic counselling services.