Mingyang Song

Assistant Professor of Clinical Epidemiology and Nutrition

Department of Epidemiology

Department of Nutrition

Other Affiliations

Assistant Professor of Medicine, Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit, Division of Gastroenterology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School


My research focuses on clinical and translational epidemiology of cancer. One aspect of my work is to  integrate large-scale observational studies with biomarker-based randomized clinical trials to identify novel nutritional and gut microbiota-targeted strategies for cancer prevention and treatment. Another part of my work involves integration of electronic health record (EHR) data with molecular profiling for developing cost-effective risk assessment tools for precision cancer screening and surveillance. I was awarded the NextGen Star by the American Association for Cancer Research. My current research is supported by the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society. The ultimate goal of my research is to translate epidemiologic advances into the clinic for improved cancer prevention and treatment.

Diet/Lifestyle, Gut Microbiome, and Cancer Prevention and Treatment

Over the past few years, I have studied the role of diet and lifestyle factors, in conjunction with host immune factors and the gut microbiota, in colorectal cancer development and survivorship. Much of my work has been based on three large prospective cohort studies, the Nurses’ Health Study I and II, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, in which diet, lifestyle and colorectal cancer diagnosis and mortality have been assessed over decades with blood, stool, and tumor tissue specimens collected in a subset of participants. Building on the findings from observational studies, I am leading two biomarker-based clinical trials of omega-3 fatty acid treatment in colon cancer patients (supported by the American Cancer Society) and individuals with a history of colorectal adenoma resection (supported by the National Cancer Institute) at Massachusetts General Hospital to investigate causality and explore the potential for future clinical translation. I am also chairing the Microbiome Epidemiology Working Group (MEWG) at Harvard Chan School, and serving as a co-investigator of the Microbiome among Nurses Study (MICRO-N), which aims to establish the world’s largest prospective collection of microbiome specimens from 25,000 individuals.

Integration of EHR and Molecular Data for Precision Cancer Screening and Surveillance

While substantial advances have been made in epidemiology to identify environmental and genetic risk factors, this knowledge has not yet been effectively translated into the clinic for better patient care. A particular example is the age-based or “one-size-fits-all” colonoscopy screening approach that does not take into account the individual variation in colorectal cancer risk. Similar issue occurs to colonoscopy surveillance after polypectomy, where histopathologic features of polyps that are being used in clinical guidelines demonstrate poor sensitivity in predicting subsequent risk of colorectal neoplasia. As result, lower-risk patients can undergo unnecessary excess testing, whereas higher-risk patients may receive delayed or no testing. To address these gaps, I am building a longitudinal cohort of patients who had undergone repeated colonoscopy exams in the Partners HealthCare. Detailed clinical and epidemiologic data are being extracted from the EHR systems supplemented by use of validated natural language processing algorithms; and then linked to the state cancer registry for cancer incidence and to the Partners Biobank for genomic information. Tissue specimens will be collected from the pathology departments for tumor profiling. This integrated cohort will allow us to identify novel biomarkers for early detection, validate prediction models in the real clinical setting, and develop and evaluate clinically applicable risk assessment tools for precision screening and surveillance.

Selected Publications

  1. Song M, Vogelstein B, Giovannucci EL, Willett WC, Tomasetti C.Cancer prevention: Molecular and epidemiologic consensus. Science. 2018 Sep 28;361(6409):1317-1318.
  2. Song M, Chan AT, Sun J. Influence of the Gut Microbiome, Diet, and Environment on Risk of Colorectal Cancer. Gastroenterology. 2019 Oct 3. pii: S0016-5085(19)41369-3.
  3. Song M, Chan AT. The potential role of exercise and nutrition in harnessing the immune system to improve colorectal cancer survival. Gastroenterology. 2018 Aug 1. pii: S0016-5085(18)34826-1. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.07.038. [Epub ahead of print]
  4. Song M, Chan AT. Environmental factors, gut microbiota, and colorectal cancer prevention. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Jul 18. pii: S1542-3565(18)30712-2. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2018.07.012. [Epub ahead of print]
  5. He X, Wu K, Ogino S, Giovannucci EL, Chan AT, Song M. Association between Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer and Risk of Serrated Polyps and Conventional Adenomas. Gastroenterology. 2018 Apr 24. pii: S0016-5085(18)30480-3. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2018.04.019. [Epub ahead of print]

  6. Song M, Wu K, Meyerhardt JA, Ogino S, Wang M, Fuchs CS, Giovannucci EL, Chan AT. Fiber intake and survival after colorectal cancer diagnosis. JAMA Oncol. 2018 Jan 1;4(1):71-79.

  7. Song M, Zhang X, Meyerhardt JA, Giovannucci EL, Ogino S, Fuchs CS, Chan AT. Marine omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake and survival after colorectal cancer diagnosis. Gut. 2017 Oct;66(10):1790-1796.

  8. Song M, Nishihara R, Cao Y, Chun E, Qian ZR, Mima K, Inamura K, Masugi Y, Nowak JA, Nosho K, Wu K, Wang M, Giovannucci E, Garrett WS, Fuchs CS, Ogino S, Chan AT. Marine omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Colorectal Cancer Characterized by Tumor-Infiltrating T Cells. JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(9):1197-1206.

  9. Song M, Giovannucci E. Preventable Incidence and Mortality of Carcinoma Associated With Lifestyle Factors Among White Adults in the United States. JAMA Oncol. 2016;2(9):1154-1161. (#1 Most Talked About Article of 2016 in JAMA Oncol)

  10. Song M, Fung TT, Hu FB, Willett WC, Longo VD, Chan AT, Giovannucci EL. Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(10):1453-1463. (#57 Most-Discussed Journal Article of 2016 across All Scientific Fields)

  11. Song M, Hu FB, Wu K, Must A, Chan AT, Willett WC, Giovannucci EL. Trajectory of body shape in early and middle life and all cause and cause specific mortality: results from two prospective US cohort studies. BMJ. 2016;353:i2195.

  12. Song M, Garrett WS, Chan AT. Nutrients, foods, and colorectal cancer prevention. Gastroenterology. 2015;148(6):1244-1260.

  13. Song M, Giovannucci E. Estimating the Influence of Obesity on Cancer Risk: Stratification by Smoking Is Critical. J Clin Oncol. 2016;34(27):3237-3239.


Sc.D. in Nutrition and Epidemiology, 2015, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

M.S. in Biostatistics, 2014, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

M.S. in Epidemiology, 2011, Peking University, China

M.B.B.S. in Preventive Medicine, 2008, Shandong University, China