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Stephen Chanock Appointed as New Director of DCEG

November 2013 - Linkage Newsletter

by Shelia Hoar Zahm, Sc.D.

Stephen ChanockIn August 2013, NCI Director Harold E. Varmus, M.D., announced the selection of Stephen J. Chanock, M.D., Chief of DCEG’s Laboratory of Translational Genomics and Director of the NCI Cancer Genomics Research Laboratory, as the new Director of DCEG. Dr. Chanock is an internationally recognized expert in cancer epidemiology and genetics. He has been a leader in the discovery and characterization of cancer susceptibility alleles through genome-wide association studies and in the discovery of new patterns of detectable genetic mosaicism, a possible risk factor for cancer and other chronic diseases, particularly in the aging population.

Dr. Chanock stated, “I am honored to have the opportunity to serve as Director of DCEG. There are exciting developments across epidemiology, genetics, clinical research, and global health that DCEG is well poised to deploy in accelerating progress toward a better understanding of cancer etiology and, ultimately, prevention. It is a great privilege to follow in the footsteps of Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., M.D., whose scientific vision and commitment to high-quality research has been nothing short of spectacular.”

Looking to the future, Dr. Chanock believes that the core activities of DCEG must continue to be centered on the investigation of the etiologic risk factors for cancer and on integrating new tools (e.g., biomarkers, genomics, and measurements of exposure) into well-designed epidemiologic studies. He has identified several elements that will be key to continued success:

  • Use of emerging technologies to improve assessment of exposures; 
  • Strategic initiatives in genomics (such as epidemiologic integration of germline genetic variation with comprehensive data on mutations in tumor cells and investigation of the biologic function of the genetic variants linked to increased risk of cancer); 
  • Leveraging areas of special expertise that are essential to the scientific community and regulatory agencies but are relatively unattended in other epidemiology programs (e.g., radiation and occupational exposures); 
  • Development of a new long-term prospective cohort study with repeated collection of biospecimens and exposure assessments;  
  • Increased collaboration with NCI’s Center for Global Health and other Divisions; and 
  • Enhanced training.

“It will be critical to maintain the scientific excellence of DCEG through innovative and collaborative projects, many of which involve colleagues across NCI and elsewhere.”

During this time of budgetary challenges, Dr. Chanock plans to initiate a careful examination of DCEG and consider reshaping some of its scientific priorities. He is also interested in developing strong ties across NCI to translate important etiologic findings into the clinical and public health venue.

“I am looking forward to working on these initiatives with Robert N. Hoover, M.D., Sc.D., Director of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program; Margaret A. Tucker, M.D., Director of the Human Genetics Program; DCEG Branch Chiefs; and the many talented investigators and staff in the Division,” Dr. Chanock noted. “It will be critical to maintain the scientific excellence of DCEG through innovative and collaborative projects, many of which involve colleagues across NCI and elsewhere. Every effort will be made to support DCEG’s commitment to team science, a cardinal feature of its success. This will require continued dedication to the training of experts across the spectrum of disciplines within DCEG.”

Dr. Chanock earned his A.B. in music from Princeton University in 1978 and his M.D. from Harvard Medical School in 1983. He received clinical training in pediatrics, pediatric infectious diseases, and pediatric hematology/oncology and research training in molecular genetics at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, after which he served three years as an instructor at Harvard Medical School.

In 1991, Dr. Chanock joined NCI as a senior staff fellow in the Pediatric Oncology Branch, NCI Center for Cancer Research. In 2001, he became a senior investigator and Director of the Cancer Genomics Research Laboratory (formerly the Core Genotyping Facility), through which he became deeply engaged in a range of epidemiologic, genetic, and analytical approaches. In 2005, Dr. Chanock took on the additional responsibility of serving as Co-Director of the NCI strategic initiative Cancer Genetic Markers of Susceptibility study. He also served as co-chair of the intramural NCI Genetics, Genomics, and Proteomics Faculty for five years.

In 2007, Dr. Chanock was appointed to the Senior Biomedical Research Service at NIH and was named Chief of DCEG’s newly formed Laboratory of Translational Genomics. In 2012, he was appointed Acting Co-Director of the NCI Center for Cancer Genomics, a member of the NCI Scientific Program Leadership Committee, and a member of the DCEG Executive Committee, a three-person group that led DCEG during the search for a new Director.

In addition, Dr. Chanock serves on numerous editorial boards and scientific advisory committees, including key NIH committees devoted to the development and implementation of NIH policies and practices for sharing large genomic data sets. Since 1995, he has devoted time annually to serving as Medical Director of Camp Fantastic, a pediatric oncology camp that is a joint venture of NCI and Special Love, Inc.

Dr. Chanock is a second-generation NIH researcher, the son of Dr. Robert M. Chanock, a pediatrician and virologist who headed the Laboratory of Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Chanock and his wife Lizette, the founder of PetConnect Rescue, have four children, five dogs, four cats, a horse, and scores of bonsai trees.

Back to the November 2013 issue of DCEG Linkage

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