Damon Runyon Researchers

Meet Our Scientists
Brian H. Shirts, MD, PhD

Clinical testing for inherited cancer risk often leads to identification of rare genetic variants, but it is uncertain if these variants affect cancer risk. This uncertainty is difficult for cancer patients who want to know the best way to prevent future cancers in themselves and their families. 

Dr. Shirts is a clinical geneticist whose goal is to empower patients who have been diagnosed with rare genetic mutations (variants of uncertain significance, or VUS) to actively participate in family tree pedigree building to understand their own genetic risk for cancer and other diseases. He will develop an online toolkit to help cancer patients use publicly available genealogy and networking resources to determine if their own variants travel with cancer in their extended family. This project will pioneer an efficient way for patients and their families to work with genetics laboratories to classify VUS, giving cancer patients control over their own genetic information. This innovative strategy will also create a new source for the highest quality genotype-cancer correlation data, which will benefit cancer researchers and, eventually, everyone at risk for cancer.


Project title: "Participatory genetics for defining genotype-phenotype associations of rare cancer variants"
Institution: University of Washington
Award Program: Innovator
Cancer Type: All Cancers
Research Area: Cancer Genetics