Middle Eastern cancer genetic analysis offers inherited cancer findings 

A new study by Qatar Foundation researchers from the Qatar Genome Research Consortium and Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar has reported the first landscape of cancer germline variation – known as inherited cancer – in the Middle East. 

The study 

The study, led by Dr. Lotfi Chouchane from Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q), has been published online in the Lancet Oncology and is titled “Genetic predisposition to cancer across people of different ancestries in Qatar: a population-based, cohort study.” The study provides in-depth screening of both common and rare cancer genetic markers in Qataris. 


The risk of developing cancer varies according to ancestry. The Middle East countries, including Qatar, are experiencing an alarming increase in cancer patients. Numerous disease-associated genetic markers, including of cancer, display substantial diversity among different populations. 

However, the difference in risk of cancer between those who have inherited cancer, passed down from generation to generation, are not well defined in the Arab population. The present study is shedding light on the cancer genetic markers found in Arab populations to help understand the development or progression of cancer, and is highlighting the high degree of diversity of susceptibility to cancer across ancestries observed in the Qatari population. 

These findings should be considered for the implementation of national cancer preventive medicine programmes, says the foundation. 

Official comments 

Lotfi Chouchane, Lead Principal Investigator of the study and Professor of Genetic Medicine, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Qatar Foundation partner university WCM-Q, said: “Incorporation of precision medicine technology, including cancer screening and genome sequencing, into the primary care system in Qatar has significant potential. The results of our study comprise a valuable source to capture cancer genetic markers in the different ancestries of the Arab populations and define quantitative and qualitative expectations for the results of personal genome sequencing. 

“With screening, prevention, and early detection at the forefront of the cancer agenda in Qatar, we propose to leverage the population genome sequencing by initiating national population testing programs to identify highly penetrant cancer gene mutation carriers like individuals being at an increased risk for hereditary breast/ovarian cancers. Our study is paving way to deliver a precision cancer prevention programme in Qatar.”  

Micheal Pellini, the former president and CEO of Foundation Medicine and currently a Managing Partner of Section 32, LLC, said: “This paper gives great insights into how we could/should be thinking about cancer screening/risk in the future. If we can better understand a person’s, or even a subpopulation’s germline risk, we could tailor screening protocols rather than treating everyone the same. It will save resources and expenses, and result in much better, more personalised, care. 

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