By: Kyster Nanan

In May 2024, OMPRN hosted an enlightening webinar featuring Dr. Alexander (Sasha) Gusev, a prominent researcher in the field of genetics and oncology. Dr. Gusev’s presentation focused on his groundbreaking research into the interplay between genetic ancestry, tumour mutational burden (TMB), and response to immunotherapy, offering novel insights that could revolutionize cancer treatment.

Dr. Gusev began his talk by emphasizing the importance of genetic ancestry in understanding cancer biology. He explained that genetic ancestry, which refers to the inherited genetic background of an individual, significantly influences the development and progression of various cancers. This ancestral genetic diversity can affect tumour characteristics and patient outcomes, making it a critical factor in personalized medicine.

One of the central themes of Dr. Gusev’s research is the concept of tumour mutational burden. TMB is a measure of the number of mutations within a tumour’s DNA. High TMB is often associated with a greater likelihood of response to immunotherapy, as more mutations can make the tumour more recognizable to the immune system. However, Dr. Gusev pointed out that TMB is not a uniform predictor across all populations due to genetic variations linked to ancestry.

In his analysis, Dr. Gusev highlighted that populations with different genetic ancestries exhibit distinct patterns of TMB. For example, certain ancestries may naturally have a higher baseline of genetic mutations, which can influence their overall TMB and, consequently, their response to immunotherapy. This variation underscores the need for more inclusive and diverse clinical trials that consider genetic ancestry as a variable, ensuring that immunotherapy treatments are effective across all demographic groups.

Another significant aspect of Dr. Gusev’s presentation was his exploration of the relationship between genetic ancestry and immune checkpoint inhibitors, a type of immunotherapy. He provided evidence showing that genetic ancestry impacts the efficacy of these inhibitors, with some populations responding more favorably than others. This finding is pivotal as it suggests that tailoring immunotherapy treatments based on genetic ancestry could enhance patient outcomes.

Dr. Gusev also discussed the implications of his research for future cancer therapies. By integrating genetic ancestry data with TMB and other molecular markers, clinicians can develop more precise and effective treatment plans. This approach aligns with the principles of precision oncology, which aims to customize cancer treatment based on the unique genetic and molecular profile of each patient.

In concluding his talk, Dr. Gusev called for increased collaboration among researchers, clinicians, and policymakers to incorporate genetic ancestry into cancer research and treatment strategies. He emphasized that a deeper understanding of how genetic diversity influences cancer can lead to more equitable and effective healthcare solutions.

Dr. Gusev’s presentation was a compelling reminder of the complexities of cancer biology and the need for personalized treatment approaches. His research not only sheds light on the critical role of genetic ancestry in cancer treatment but also paves the way for more inclusive and effective therapeutic strategies. The OMPRN webinar highlighted the potential of integrating genetic and molecular data to revolutionize cancer care, ultimately improving outcomes for patients from diverse backgrounds.

For those interested in delving deeper into Dr. Gusev’s findings, the full recording of his webinar is available on YouTube: here


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