A study looking at genetic causes of cancer (SEARCH study)

Please note - this trial is no longer recruiting patients. We hope to add results when they are available.

Cancer type:

Breast cancer
Ovarian cancer
Womb (uterine or endometrial) cancer





This study is being done to find out more about possible genetic causes of a number of cancers.

There are many factors that increase or decrease our risk of developing cancer. One is having a faulty gene (genetic mutation Open a glossary item).

Some genes that increase cancer risk are ‘high penetrance’ genes. This means that they significantly increase risk of developing cancer.

But some genes that increase cancer risk are ‘low penetrance’ genes. They do increase risk, but not as much as high penetrance genes do. Low penetrance genes are often more difficult to identify.

In this study, the research team will look at the genes of 32,000 people with cancer. The aim of this study is to

  • Find out more about the high penetrance genes we already know about
  • Find new low penetrance genes
  • Look at other factors that may interact with a our genes to increase risk of developing cancer

Please note, you cannot volunteer to take part in this study. If you are eligible, someone involved with the study may write to you to ask if you would like to join.

Who can enter

You can take part in this study if you

In addition to that, you must have been

  • Aged between 18 and 69 when you were diagnosed with cancer
  • Asked to take part

Trial design

If you are asked to, and would like to, take part the research team will send you a questionnaire to fill out and send back to them. This will ask you about things such as

  • Your and your family’s medical history
  • Your education and job
  • How much and how often you smoke or drink alcohol
  • Your height and weight
  • How many children you have had, and how old you were when they were born
  • What age you started your periods and whether you have been through the menopause
  • If you have taken the oral contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

You will also give a blood sample. This can be done by your GP or practice nurse, or at the outpatient department of the hospital.

The research team will analyse the blood samples in the lab and look for genetic faults that may increase risk of cancer. They will also look at the results of the questionnaire to see if there are any factors that may interact with a faulty gene to increase risk further.

The research team can tell you if they find a genetic fault in your sample, but only if you want them to. It can raise some difficult questions, and not everyone wants to know.

Hospital visits

The research team will send you the questionnaire. You can fill this in at home and send it back to them. You will go to your GP surgery or the outpatients department to give a blood sample. Apart from that, you won’t have any extra visits to hospital as a result of taking part in this trial.

Side effects

There are no treatments in this study. You may get a small bruise where your blood sample is taken, but apart from that there aren’t any side effects.

If the research team find that you have a gene that increases your risk of cancer and you would like them to tell you, you may go on to have further treatment or screening. Your doctor will explain what this may mean for you.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Prof Paul Pharoah
Professor Doug Easton
Dr Alison Dunning

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC)
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Charlie took part in a trial to try new treatments

A picture of Charlie

“I think it’s really important that people keep signing up to these type of trials to push research forward.”

Last reviewed:

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