Dr. Nick Orr, PhD

School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences
Patrick G. Johnston Centre for Cancer Research
Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland.

Dr. Nick Orr, PhD of Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland is the Lead Researcher of an international consortium working to uncover genes that lead to breast cancer in men. The consortium, known as MERGE, is focusing on discovering and characterizing new genetic risk factors for male breast cancer by analyzing DNA from 5,000 men. The DNA will be compared to that of 10,000 men without breast cancer, making it the largest study of its kind worldwide. By building a large international research resource for male breast cancer genetics, the MERGE team will develop a better understanding of the causes of breast cancer in men that may lead to new treatments for the disease.

Dr. Orr ‘s research has focused on investigating the contribution and mechanisms of action of inherited genetic variation to breast cancer risk in women and men. Complex traits, including susceptibility to most common types of cancer, are influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. “We characterize risk factors for breast cancer by utilizing data and biological materials collected from participants in the Breakthrough Generations Study and the Breakthrough Male Breast Cancer Study,” says Orr. “We aim to gain a better understanding of the etiology and biology of breast cancer by exploring gender-specific similarities and differences in the mechanisms by which inherited genetic variation influences risk of the disease.” Male breast cancer is a relatively rare disease that accounts for less than 1% of breast cancers diagnosed every year in the UK, equating to 400 new cases annually.

The MERGE initiative is led by Queen’s and Sapienza University of Rome and supported by the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

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