My research focus is to understand mechanisms of carcinogenesis and to establish association with disease for future prevention. My research base is the Nurses’ Health Study, where 33,000 germline DNA samples are available for determining inherited genetic susceptibility to cancer and other chronic diseases. I have introduced modern high-throughput genotyping methods in order to build the capacity to handle larger numbers of samples per day, implemented standard molecular biological techniques, such as cloning, RT-PCR, Western blotting, and assays to assess transcriptional effects and more recently whole genome amplification technique that will provide sufficiently robust amplification of limiting samples of genomic DNA that can be used for a variety of applications and statistically inferring population haplotypes. Some of my current projects include studying polymorphisms in hormone-metabolizing genes in endometrial and breast cancer. Findings from these studies have led to domestic collaborations with human geneticists Dr. David Housman at MIT, Dr. Cynthia Morton at BWH, clinicians, Dr. Daniel Cramer at BWH, George Mutter at HMS; and two international collaborations, Dr. Hans Olov-Adami at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and Dr. Georgia Chenevix-Trench at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia.
Following my findings published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in 2002, that a variation in the promoter region of the human progesterone receptor (hPR) gene increases the risk of endometrial cancer, subsequent studies in my laboratory have found this same association with other types of hormone-related cancers, such as breast cancer. These risks are often modified by environmental factors such as obesity.
I am the primary instructor for Epi249a, “Molecular Biology for Epidemiologists,” a graduate-level course (approx. 30 students) that teaches the fundamental concepts of molecular biology. I assist in the direction of the Molecular Epidemiology laboratory at the Harvard School of Public Health (I supervise a laboratory manager and 3 research assistants) and direct my molecular biology laboratory housed in the ERBC at 221 Longwood Ave (research assistant, doctoral student and a masters student). I mentor 12 students (masters, doctoral and postdoctoral) and fellows on their research projects at Channing Laboratory and at the Harvard School of Public Health.
National Cancer Institute Research Fellowship1991-1993
Scholarship Award for Excellence in Academic Work
Columbia University School of Public Health
Award for Academic Excellence
Stanford Immunology Department Fellowship Competititve Award 1995-1997
American Cancer Society Faculty Award2000-2002
American Cancer Society
American Cancer Society Research Scholar Award2002-2008
American Cancer Society
Recognized as one of the top nine U.S. female scientists in cancer research2006-2007
Award for Excellence in Teaching2006-2007
Harvard School of Public Health