In the next quinquennium we propose to make greater use of the tissues we collect in our field studies to improve our understanding of who is at risk of specific cancers, the natural history of early screen detected lesions, and to characterize cancers so that treatments can be more accurately targeted to the patients with cancers likely to respond to them. We are fortunate to have recruited Professor Lorincz to lead these activities.
An understanding of how phenotype is created is one of the most fundamental questions of biology. Epigenetics was coined as a term in 1946 by Conrad Waddington to describe ‘The interactions of genes with their environment that bring the phenotype into being”. Much of molecular biology in the last decade has been devoted to unravelling the genetic code, mapping and analyses on a massive scale of mutations and polymorphisms (genomics), and the relationship of these entities to RNA and protein expression profiles (RNomics and Proteomics), as a set the so called “omics” sciences. However, epigenetics encompasses an overarching set of molecular rules that control important aspects of expression of the genetic machinery. As such these mechanisms are key to how the genome is decoded into the phenotype and how the genotype and phenotype are modified by interactions with the environment; thus a detailed study of epigenetics will be crucial to our understanding of carcinogenesis.