The Merner Lab
Dr. Nancy Merner has developed a cancer genetics research program at Auburn University’s College of Veterinary Medicine that focuses on identifying genetic risk variants of hereditary cancer syndromes. She is particularly interested in syndromes associated with an increased risk of breast cancer since ~65% of hereditary breast cancer cases remain genetically unsolved, despite years of extensive research.
It is hypothesized by many investigators in the field that past breast cancer susceptibility gene discovery attempts were thwarted by genetic heterogeneity. Thus, Dr. Merner and her research team take a number of approaches in order to reduce heterogeneity in their search for breast cancer susceptibility genes. Overall, two closely related, but distinct, breast cancer genetic studies are carried out in parallel. Each research approach focuses on a different species, human or canine. Dr. Merner has two distinct study cohorts, a human hereditary cancer cohort and a canine mammary tumor (CMT) cohort, that can be independently studied to find susceptibility genes but can also serve as validation cohorts once a risk variant(s) is identified in one of the two cohorts. This comparative oncology/genomics approach to breast cancer susceptibility gene discovery is unique and powerful.