Simon Gayther, PhD

Dr. Simon Gayther is Professor in Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. After completing his PhD in hereditary cancer genetics in 1994 (University College London, UK), Dr. Gayther moved into ovarian cancer research working with Professor Bruce Ponder at the University of Cambridge, searching for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 susceptibility genes, which are largely responsible for the breast-ovarian cancer syndrome. A major aspect of this work was understanding the role and contribution of these genes to familial ovarian cancer, and defining the variations in breast and ovarian cancer risks associated with different BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations. Dr. Gayther continued his work in ovarian cancer susceptibility genetics after joining Professor Ian Jacobs’ team, first at Barts and the London Hospital and then at University College London. Together with Dr. Paul Pharoah at University of Cambridge, he established an international collaboration to identify common low-penetrance susceptibility alleles for ovarian cancer. This developed into the Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium (OCAC), which has since became the world’s largest population-based ovarian cancer case collection for identifying genetic and epidemiological risk factors for the disease. As part of OCAC, Drs. Gayther and Pharoah led the first genome wide association study for ovarian cancer, which has identified several novel susceptibility alleles for the disease. More recently, Dr Gayther has played a key role in developing the principles and methodologies for studying the functional significance of common low risk susceptibility alleles and the target cancer susceptibility genes at these loci, which is the focus of this OCRF award. In this new area of research, he is collaborating closely with Drs. Alvaro Monteiro (H Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa) and Ellen Goode (Mayo Clinic, Rochester), and more broadly with the NIH initiated consortium GAME-ON. The long-term aim of Dr. Gayther’s research program is to reduce mortality from ovarian cancer by: (1) developing risk prediction strategies that identify the proportion of the general population at greatest disease risk; (2) to target these women for clinical intervention strategies, such as biomarker screening for detecting early stage disease; (3) Using functional approaches, to evaluate the role of novel ovarian cancer susceptibility genes in the initiation and development of ovarian cancer, and their potential as both early stage disease biomarkers and therapeutic targets for better treatment.