Susan L. Slager, Ph.D., investigates the inherited genetic basis of lymphoma, including chronic lymphocytic leukemia, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, multiple myeloma and Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Dr. Slager leads the Mayo Clinic B-cell lymphoma family registry, in which more than 500 families (including relatives) have consented to participate. These families are followed over time to better understand why relatives from these families have a higher risk of lymphoma (regardless of lymphoma subtype) than that observed in the general population.
- Lymphoma susceptibility. Dr. Slager works to identify the inherited genetic variants that increase the risk of lymphoma and lymphoma subtypes. She and her colleagues have identified over 75 inherited variants that are associated with an increased risk of lymphoma, mainly associated with specific lymphoma subtypes. The next steps involve understanding how these variants biologically lead to these lymphomas.
- Monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis (MBL). MBL is a precursor condition to chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dr. Slager and colleagues have shown that in families with multiple members with CLL, relatives have an increased risk of getting MBL compared with the general population. Understanding the factors that predict which relatives who have MBL go on to develop CLL is an active area in Dr. Slager's research program.
- Pancancer studies. Dr. Slager is leading new efforts to combine data across 11 cancers at Mayo Clinic to facilitate across-cancer studies (pancancer studies). By building this resource, Dr. Slager and colleagues will be able to evaluate risk factors that are common across cancers, as well as understand commonalities that affect cancer prognosis and affect patient-reported outcomes.
Significance to patient care
Lymphoma, including certain lymphoma subtypes, has one of the highest familial risks among cancers. Dr. Slager's efforts will lead to better understanding of the susceptibility of lymphoma. This may provide new insights into developing clinical surveillance approaches for relatives of patients with lymphoma.