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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Clinical Epidemiology Unit

The Clinical Epidemiology Unit (CEU) conducts etiologic research with potential clinical and public health applications, and leads studies evaluating population-based early detection and cancer prevention strategies.


Study the natural history of cancer and its precursors to develop biomarkers and new approaches for risk assessment, screening, and prevention.


CEU conducts research on etiology, natural history, multi-step carcinogenesis, molecular characterization of cancers and precancers, development and evaluation of screening tools, development and validation of risk prediction models, and risk-based screening and clinical management guidelines. CEU has a strong focus on discovery of risk markers and assay development and evaluation, with the goal of guiding promising markers into clinical and public health use. Risk markers may include genetics, epidemiologic factors, molecular biomarkers, imaging, or any routine clinical test.

We employ novel methods and technologies, such as artificial intelligence, methylation and somatic mutation testing, in the context of rigorous population-based studies. We conduct comprehensive molecular characterization of cancer precursors, and we evaluate biomarkers in lesion-directed biospecimens. The risk estimates derived from CEU studies inform the development of clinical interventions and risk-based guidelines. CEU strives to develop applications that are close to implementation, but we typically do not conduct implementation studies. 

CEU Research Areas

Read more about the Clinical Epidemiology Unit Research Areas.

HPV-related anogenital cancers 

  • Molecular epidemiology and multi-stage carcinogenesis 
  • Screening and prevention

Endometrial cancer 

  • Etiology, risk prediction and early detection strategies 
  • Novel sampling approaches

Ovarian Cancer 

  • Etiologic heterogeneity 
  • Risk prediction 

Oropharyngeal Cancer

  • Molecular epidemiology of oral HPV infection and HPV-positive oropharyngeal cancer 
  • Natural history, risk prediction, screening, and prevention 

Oral cavity cancer

  • Etiology and multi-stage carcinogenesis
  • Risk prediction and evaluation of biomarkers and adjunctive techniques for screening 

Lung Cancer

  • Etiologic role of chronic inflammation
  • Risk prediction

Clinical Epidemiology Methods

  • Approaches to studying multi-step carcinogenesis and estimating transition probabilities
  • Standardized approaches and analytic methods to evaluate biomarkers and risk prediction
  • Approaches to working with large integrated healthcare systems and electronic medical records (EMR), from natural language processing to generating precise risk estimates from heavily interval- and left-censored EMR data 

For more information, contact Nicolas Wentzensen, head, Clinical Epidemiology Unit.

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