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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Kevin Brown, Ph.D.


Kevin Brown, Ph.D.

Kevin Brown, Ph.D.

Organization:National Cancer Institute
Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Laboratory of Translational Genomics
Address:8717 Grovemont Circle
ATC Room 152H


Dr. Brown received a Ph.D. in genetics from the George Washington University in Washington, D.C., in 2003. He conducted his postdoctoral training in the Laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Trent at the Translational Genomic Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, Arizona. He subsequently went on to direct his own research program at TGen as an investigator from 2005 to 2010, and served as an adjunct professor in basic medical sciences at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, the University of Arizona College of Medicine, and Arizona State University from 2008 to 2010. His work at TGen involved the application of whole-genome familial linkage, candidate gene, and genome-wide association study (GWAS) approaches to identify genetic variants associated with melanoma susceptibility. In 2010, Dr. Brown joined the Laboratory of Translational Genomics (LTG) in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG) as a tenure-track investigator. His research focuses on the genetic underpinnings of melanoma susceptibility.

Research Interests

Discovery of Germline Cancer Susceptibility Genes

My research is focused on identifying the genetic contributions and functional pathways associated with cancer risk with a primary focus on melanoma. While early-stage melanoma is largely curable via surgical resection, late-stage melanoma remains nearly incurable despite decades of research. Much of the effort in my laboratory is directed towards better understanding the genetic factors contributing to melanoma risk, with a goal of ultimately facilitating prevention and early-detection efforts in at-risk individuals. We are actively involved in ongoing melanoma GWAS efforts within DCEG, and as members of the International Melanoma Genetics Consortium (GenoMEL), we collaborate on meta-analyses. We also work with GenoMEL member groups to better understand the genetics of melanoma susceptibility in melanoma-prone families using whole-genome and -exome sequencing approaches. Lastly, we are actively involved in ongoing renal cell cancer GWAS at the NCI, as well as meta-analyses with international teams working in the same area.

Functional Characterization of Cancer Susceptibility Loci

Beyond susceptibility gene/locus discovery, a major focus of our laboratory is in the functional characterization of such loci. While significant strides have been made towards cataloging loci involved in cancer risk, elucidation of how risk variants influence susceptibility remains a significant challenge, with progress in this area lagging far behind.  Our approach focuses both on better understanding the molecular consequences of specific risk variants on gene regulation and function, and on the phenotypic effects of allele-specific gene functions. Work in the laboratory involves fine-mapping of risk associated regions, targeted and genome-wide expression analysis, gene regulation and epigenetic work, and bioinformatic analysis of large genomic datasets.

Current projects in the laboratory include a large-scale study of the consequences of human melanocyte and melanoma germline genetic variation on both gene regulation and cellular phenotypes, functional genomic screens to identify genes that mediate phenotypes associated with early stage tumor progression, large-scale reporter screens to identify risk-associated genetic variants conferring allele-specific gene regulatory potential, and directed analyses applied to specific susceptibility regions and genes, presently including chromosome bands 5p15.33 (TERT-CLPTM1L), 1q21.3 (multi-gene), 1q21.3 (PARP1), 22q13.1 (PLA2G6), 16q12.2 (FTO), MITF, and ACD.


Member of the International Melanoma Genetics Consortium (GenoMEL)

Laboratory Members

Mai Xu, Ph.D. – Biologist and Lab Manager
Jiyeon Choi, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow
Tongwu Zhang, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow
Michael Kovacs, M.S. – Postbaccalaureate IRTA Fellow

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Information for Journalists

To request an interview with a DCEG investigator, contact the NCI Office of Media Relations:


Phone: 301-496-6641

Spotlight on Investigator

Read Kevin Brown's profile in the March 2012 Linkage newsletter.