Explore the research and focus areas of our division's faculty and affiliates.
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Lifang Hou, MD, PhD is a cancer molecular epidemiologist. Her overarching research goal is to understand the biological mechanisms linking environmental risk factors with subclinical or clinical disease development, which ultimately lead to the development of effective strategies for prevention of chronic diseases. The biomarkers that Dr. Hou has investigated include genetic factors (i.e., polymorphisms, telomere length shortening, and mitochondria DNA copy number variations); and epigenetic factors (i.e., DNA methylation, histone modifications, and microRNA profiling). In addition to being a PI of several NIH-funded grants, Dr. Hou is the co-director and co-PI of the Northwestern Consortium for Early Phase Cancer Prevention Trials of the Division of Cancer Prevention (DCP) Consortia, National Cancer Institute. In addition, molecular cancer epidemiology also serves as an useful tool by other areas of our cancer-related epidemiology research, such as environmental, behavioral, nutritional studies.
Elizabeth Hibler, MPH, PhD is a molecular epidemiologist conducting research focused on the relationships between diet, physical activity, and genetic/epigenetic factors in the etiology and prevention of cancer. Dr. Hibler has a background studying vitamin D metabolites and colorectal neoplasia. Dr. Hibler is currently conducting studies related to physical activity and DNA methylation of gene loci associated with breast and colon cancer risk. In the future, her goal is to evaluate the influence of physical activity and dietary interventions on epigenetic variation among individuals at high-risk for cancer.
Linda Van Horn, PhD, RD is a nutritional epidemiologist. In Dr. Van Horn’s Maternal-Offspring Metabolics: Family Intervention Trial (MOMFIT), an NIH-funded (NIDDK-NHLBI-NICHD) Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT) aiming at controlling gestational weight gain (GWG) and maternal-offspring cardiometabolic outcomes among 300 overweight/obese pregnant women by lifestyle interventions (including physical activity consisting of 30 minutes per day of walking and a healthier, nutrient-dense and low-caloric diet), Dr. Hou and Dr. Van Horn study whether maternal toxic trace elements and essential trace elements are associated with the size and body composition of the offspring at birth and in infancy, which are known to be risk factors for childhood and adulthood obesity, a risk factor itself for various cancers.
Raymond Bergan, MD and Dr. Hou have been developing a collaborative project to study dietary genistein intake, blood genistein levels, and epigenetics in prostate cancer in both Chinese and US men. US men have a very high prostate cancer incidence rate, whereas Chinese men have the lowest incidence and mortality rates in the world. This comparative study will provide information for the first time on the role dietary genistein and its biology and epigenetics play in the US-China prostate cancer incidence and mortality rate disparity.