News and Events
Dr. De Vivo awarded R13 grant to hold a symposium of the Endometrial Cancer Consortium
Dr. Immaculata De Vivo received an NIH R13 grant to support an Endometrial Cancer Consortium symposium at HSPH this March. This conference provides an extraordinary opportunity to address an unmet need for the interchange of research findings by endometrial cancer biologists, clinicians, and population health researchers, and will seek to provide an update on developments in various areas related to causation and prognosis for this important cancer. The subject of this meeting has significant public health import- endometrial cancer is the most common gynecologic cancer in the U.S.; both the incidence rate and the number of cancers have grown in recent years, and it is likely that these trends will continue as the population ages and life expectancy increases. The interdisciplinary nature of this symposium will help to bring together a group of researchers with a variety of scientific backgrounds so that they can share perspectives and synergize in their efforts to plan novel research plans. Experts in epidemiology, biology, pathology, psychology, health policy, and clinical practice will come together to review the current state of knowledge and develop a list of priorities for future research programs that will have the greatest impact on reducing incidence and improving survival from this disease.
2013 PGSG Retreat
This year’s PGSG Retreat took place on September 13th at the Wellesley College Club. Director David Hunter and Deputy Director Peter Kraft led a day of scientific presentations, lively discussion, and socializing. The presentations included a wide range of topics, from cancer to populations genetics, telomeres, and sequencing. With the PGSG group continuing to grow in recent years, the retreat is always a welcome opportunity to get to know new members and discuss potential new collaborations.
PGSG is the new PMAGE
The Program in Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology has changed its name to the Program in Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics (PGSG). The new name reflects the Program’s expanded interest in statistical methods for genetic epidemiology, ranging from new methods to estimate the genetic contribution to disease risk (here, here, and here), integrate germline genetic variation, gene expression and methylation (here and here), and identify and interpret gene-environment interactions (here and here).
Program faculty, fellows and students continue to pursue research to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying complex diseases, using a wide range of biomarkers (here and here).
Dr. Jiali Han has accepted an exciting new opportunity- effective September 1st, he is Professor and Department Chair of Epidemiology at the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, Efroymson Professor of Oncology, Simon Cancer Center, at Indiana University at Indianapolis. Dr. Han will also remain affiliated with HSPH as an adjunct professor in the Department of Epidemiology.
This September doctoral student Chia-yen Chen successfully defended his thesis on “Genetic prediction using genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphisms.” He will soon begin a postdoctoral fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital with Jordan Smoller and Benjamin Neale. Congratulations Dr. Chen!
Congratulations to Postdoctoral Fellow Xuefeng (Peter) Wang, who in August 2013 is starting a new position as a tenure-track assistant professor in the Program in Public Health and the Department of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine. During his time at HSPH, Xuefeng was jointly supervised by Dr. Liming Liang in the Department of Epidemiology and Dr. Xihong Lin in the Biostatistics Department. We wish him the best of luck!
Postdoc Chaolong Wang has been selected as a semifinalist for the 2013 Charles J. Epstein Trainee Awards for Excellence in Human Genetics Research for the 63rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics, which will be held in Boston from October 22-26th. His abstract, “Tracing individual ancestry in a principal components space,” will be evaluated further for the finalist. Chaolong is mentored by Drs. Liming Liang and Xihong Lin.
Alexis Carere has received a Doctoral Foreign Study Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Dr. Peter Kraft and Dr. Robert Green co-supervise her project, titled, “A prospective cohort of direct-to-consumer genetic testing customers: Consumer motivations, behavioral responses, and their impact on the health care system.”
Recent PMAGE graduate Linda Hiraki received postdoctoral fellowship awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and STAGE (Strategic Training for Advanced Genetic Epidemiology). She will be working with Dr. Andrew Paterson at the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto.
Mentoring Future Epidemiologists
Each year the Department of Epidemiology runs a 4 week Summer Program for students from underrepresented backgrounds. The Summer Program in Epidemiology integrates mathematics and quantitative methods to provide students with an understanding of the skills and processes necessary to pursue a career in public health. This year Alkes Price, Assistant Professor of Statistical Genetics, is mentoring three students in the program. Dr. Price’s research focuses on the development of statistical methods for uncovering the genetic basis of human disease, and on the population genetics underlying these methods. In addition to coursework and lectures, his students are collaborating on a research project entitled, “Consistency across Ancestries of Genetic Associations to Type 2 Diabetes.” The project and coursework provide students an introduction to epidemiology and biostatistics, and give them the opportunity to learn about the many interdisciplinary approaches in public health from HSPH professors, students and researchers.
The De Vivo Lab has continued to grow in recent months, adding two new postdoctoral fellows and new summer researchers. The laboratory primarily focuses on the discovery and characterization of genetic biological markers to assess disease susceptibility in human populations. Biological markers of interest include single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), telomere length, and gene copy number variations (CNVs). In addition the lab also collaborates in the characterization of potential cancer therapeutic agents such as GRN163L which attacks Telomerase, and Dichloroacetate, which attacks aerobic glycolysis. Welcome to all the new members!
Congratulations to all the 2013 graduates, especially Linda Hiraki and Maxine Chen! Dr. Hiraki completed her Ph.D. and is moving on to a postdoctoral position in her native Canada. Maxine received her Master’s degree, and will remain at HSPH as a Doctoral student this Fall.
April 11, 2013 — In the largest-ever study of its kind, an international collaboration of hundreds of scientists has uncovered 74 new genetic markers linked to three common hormonal cancers—breast, prostate, and ovarian—thus setting the stage for new treatments, targeted screening, and a greater understanding of how these diseases develop.
Jennifer Prescott, who has worked with Dr. De Vivo for several years as a research fellow and now an instructor, was awarded a new grant from the Harvard Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Center. The title of the project is “Influence of a family history of Type 2 Diabetes on colorectal cancer risk and mortality, and on biomarkers of glycemic control, plasma lipids, and inflammatory biomarkers.” The researchers hypothesize that increased insulin signaling increases the risk of colorectal cancer, based on previous studies that have shown healthy first-degree relatives of type 2 diabetics to have reduced insulin secretion due to impaired beta-cell function. The project will explore whether a family history of type 2 diabetes is associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer incidence and mortality, and/or alters biomarkers associated with insulin action in the NHS and HPFS cohorts. Dr. Prescott will also explore whether a genetic risk score for type 2 diabetes is associated with colorectal cancer risk.
Postdoctoral fellow Amit Joshi also received grant funding from the TREC Center. Dr. Joshi’s research project is entitled “Effect modification of association of GWAS-identified susceptibility SNPs for body mass index with post-menopausal breast cancer risk by physical activity.” He will use data from the Nurses’ Health Study, which is one of the largest and longest running investigations of factors that influence women’s health.
Dr. Hugues Aschard, postdoctoral fellow under Dr. Kraft, was recently awarded grant 1R03HG006720-01A1, “Relaxing genetic models to identify genetic variants involved in gene-gene and gene-environment interactions.” Dr. Aschard and his colleagues developed a non-parametric test of association that compares phenotypic distribution by genotypic classes, which aims to identify quantitative trait loci involved in interactions. The aims of his grant are to identify potential technical improvements of the proposed method and to conduct real data application to identify genetic variants that have been missed by standard genome-wide association screening.