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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Alina V. Brenner, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.

Staff Scientist

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Alina V. Brenner, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.

Alina V. Brenner, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.

Organization:National Cancer Institute
Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Radiation Epidemiology Branch
Address:NCI Shady Grove
Room 7E532


Dr. Brenner received her M.D. in 1992 from the Russian State Medical University (RSMU) in Moscow. She completed a Ph.D. in allergy and immunology in 1995 at RSMU and continued her post-doctoral research there in immunology. In 1998-1999, she completed an MPH program in epidemiology at the George Washington University, Washington D.C. She joined the Radiation Epidemiology Branch as a post-doctoral fellow in 1999 and became a staff scientist in 2004.

Research Interests

Dr. Brenner main scientific interests include epidemiology of thyroid and brain cancers, with a special focus on radiation exposure. By studying how radiation interacts with age, genetics, and the immune system, she hopes to improve understanding of radiation carcinogenesis of these tumors. Dr. Brenner’s interdisciplinary training in epidemiology, medicine and laboratory sciences allows her to pursue this goal by conducting epidemiological and molecular studies of irradiated populations. Dr. Brenner has a long-standing involvement in studies related to the Chornobyl accident.

Thyroid diseases following the Chornobyl accident

Dr. Brenner has been involved in studies of thyroid cancer and other thyroid diseases in relation to environmental I-131 (I-131) exposure due to the Chornobyl accident since 1999. These studies include three cohorts: Ukrainian (N=13,243) and Belorussian cohorts (N=11,970) of persons exposed during childhood, and Ukrainian cohort of persons exposed in utero (N=2,583). The unique feature of these cohorts is the availability of individual measurements of thyroid radioactivity shortly after the accident allowing high quality individual thyroid gland dose estimates and detailed dose-response analyses. Another remarkable feature of the studies is the quality of follow up and clinical data, since at least 80% of participants underwent multiple biennial thyroid examinations conducted by expert endocrinologists and ultrasonographers and contributed serum and urine samples for assessment of thyroid function. Dr. Brenner led several major dose-response analyses that contributed to our understanding of the long-term consequences of the Chornobyl accident. She is also involved in several molecular studies nested within the UA cohort that are focused on understanding dose-dependent gene expression and somatic mutations in Chornobyl-related thyroid cancers.

Etiology of brain cancers

While ionizing radiation is one of the few established risk factors in etiology of CNS tumors, many issues of radiation effects remain unresolved due to insufficient data in individual studies. Jointly with Dr. Inskip, Dr. Brenner proposed to conduct a pooled study of radiation exposed populations to better quantify the dose-response relationship for brain tumors. This study will increase power to assess the influence of age at exposure, temporal patterns of risk in terms of attained age and time since exposure, the effects of gender, and the effect of fractionated exposures. Driven by a desire to understand the contribution of the immune system to cancer development, Dr. Brenner led several analyses concerning risk of brain tumors in relation to a variety of immune-related conditions. In one of the first analyses in the field, she found a significant inverse relationship between self-reported history of allergies and autoimmune disease and risk of adult glioma. To further pursue what may account for such an association, Dr. Brenner jointly with Drs. Rajaraman and Inskip also analyzed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in a comprehensive set of innate immunity genes. Currently, Dr. Brenner is conducting a study of selected immunological markers in pre-diagnostic serum in relation to risk of glioma among U.S. active duty military personnel.