Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology
Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Adjunct Faculty, Department of Epidemiology, Medical University of Vienna
Adjunct Faculty, Department of Epidemiology, Fielding School of Public Health, UCLA
Major research interests:
1. Epidemiology of chronic diseases – etiology of cancer, coronary heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases 2. Circadian phase: melatonin / cortisol as biomarkers for cancer risk 3. Shift work: light exposure and the etiology of cancer 4. Breast cancer: biomarkers, gene-environment interactions, and prevention
My research focuses on the influence of lifestyle as well as gene-environment interactions in the context of chronic diseases. These include a variety of cancers such as breast, colon, and pancreatic cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s disease and its relation with cancer etiology, to further understand biological mechanisms in carcinogenesis. My research is embedded in the Harvard cohorts, including the Nurses’ Health Studies and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and other national and international observational studies (e.g., the MrOS and ORDET cohorts and Danish register-based case-control studies).
A primary interest of mine relates to the influence of the circadian system on chronic disease and longevity in humans. I study shift work as a surrogate for exposure to light at night including related biomarkers for cancer risk. This work has led to the establishment of a new classification of shift work as a probable human carcinogen by WHO in 2007. To translate findings from these studies to cancer prevention strategies I conducted a controlled trial of melatonin supplementation in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. In addition to cancer, I examine the effect of circadian misalignment (e.g., variations in circadian and melatonin metabolism genes, melatonin secretion, shift work history, and sleep duration) in relation to cardiovascular disease pathways (e.g., markers of inflammation, glucose and lipid metabolism and thrombosis) and associated endpoints.
Another research focus has been to study pathways of energy balance including IGFs with respect to breast cancer risk. Further, I am interested in the etiology and prevention of gastrointestinal tumors, including how epigenetic events impact colorectal cancer risk, and how methyl donors interact with these events. To further understand biological mechanisms in the development of cancer, I study Parkinson’s disease and its relation with cancer; to this end, I collaborated with Dr. Ritz (UCLA), in establishing the worldwide largest population-based case-control study to examine GxE in PD.
As adjunct faculty of the Department of Epidemiology at the Medical University of Vienna, I am engaged in several projects that involve Austrian health data.
MD, 1992, Medical University of Vienna
MPH, 2000, Harvard School of Public Health (Quantitative Methods)
MSc, 2003, University of Vienna (Psychology)
DrPH, 2003, Harvard School of Public Health (Epidemiology)
Habilitation (Priv.-Doz.), 2005, Medical University of Vienna (Public Health)