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BCRF Investigator Since

2007

Donor Recognition

The von Mandl Family Award

Charis Eng, MD, PhD, FACP

Chairwoman, Genomic Medicine Institute, Cleveland Clinic
American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor
Sondra J. and Stephen R. Hardis Chair of Cancer Genomic Medicine
Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Genetics
Case Western Reserve University
Cleveland, Ohio

Current Research

  • Seeking to understand the genetic risks that link Cowden Syndrome (CS) and a predisposition for breast cancer.

  • Ongoing studies are focused on identifying targets to block the effect of a mutation in a cancer suppressing gene called PTEN. 

  • This research will inform more precise risk assessment and predictive information to aid in the prevention and management of breast cancer.

Inherited mutations in the PTEN and SDHx tumor-suppressing genes are common in individuals and families with Cowden syndrome (CS), a disease characterized by multiple non-cancerous, tumor-like growths. CS patients with PTEN or SDHx mutations have an increased risk of many cancers including breast cancer. Those with both PTEN and SDHx alterations have a significantly higher risk of breast cancer compared to those with either PTEN or SDHx mutations alone.

Dr. Eng's laboratory has shown that SDHx likely interferes with the cancer-fighting functions of PTEN by stimulating a variety of growth signals that promote breast cancer. Her current BCRF study seeks to identify these mechanisms, which will provide risk assessment and predictive information to aid in the prevention and management of breast cancer.

In the coming year, Dr. Eng and her team will search for new breast cancer risk modifiers in CS patients with PTEN mutations, as well as new breast cancer predisposition genes associated with CS/CS-like syndrome. SDHx variants likely impact metabolism and cell fate predisposing breast cells to cancer formation. The team will explore the mechanisms that link metabolism to heritable breast cancer.

Alternatively, mutations in a gene called KLLN couteract the cancer risk  caused by mutations in the PTEN gene. The Eng's laboratory is studying how KLLN works to suppress tumor growth, and are using cutting-edge approaches to search for other modifiers of breast cancer risk in PTEN mutation-positive CS without SDHx/KLLN alterations.

This work will impact cancer risk assessment and medical care by providing a more precise prediction model of breast cancer risk in patients with CS.

Bio

Charis Eng, MD, PhD is the founding Chair of the Genomic Medicine Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, founding Director of the institute’s clinical component, the Center for Personalized Genetic Healthcare, and Professor and Vice Chairman of the Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She was honored with the Hardis Endowed Chair in Cancer Genomic Medicine in 2008 and the American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professorship in 2009. In 2011, she was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the US National Academies of Sciences for her achievements and leadership in genetics- and genomics-based research and personalized healthcare. Her research has been acknowledged as the paradigm for performing cancer genetics research which can be brought to clinical practice. At the clinical interface, she is acknowledged as one of the rare "go to" people on what is and how to implement genetic- and genomics-enabled personalized healthcare.