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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch Research Areas

The Immunoepidemiology Branch (IIB) conducts research on 1) infectious agents with established or postulated associations with cancer and 2) immune perturbations relevant for cancer risk, including severe immunosuppression, autoimmune diseases, and chronic inflammation. Based on findings from etiologic research, IIB investigators look for opportunities to translate findings to cancer prevention, risk stratification, and screening.

Approximately 15 percent of all cancers are attributable to infectious agents. Infection-related cancers thus represent a major public health burden. For cancers where the role of an infection is established, IIB research aims to further elucidate the etiologic association by investigating topics ranging from acquisition of infection to the occurrence of cancer, including the natural history of infections, genetic and environmental cofactors that modulate cancer risk, biomarkers of cancer risk, and accurate estimation of absolute cancer risk among infected individuals. We also examine primary and secondary prevention strategies for these cancers.

Another important focus of IIB research is the etiologic role of immunity and inflammation in cancer. IIB researchers address key questions regarding the spectrum of cancer among immunosuppressed individuals and the mechanisms underlying increased cancer risk in those populations. IIB investigators study both systemic and local immunity and inflammation to unravel their contributions to cancer etiology. We also look for opportunities to identify novel infections that contribute to cancer, which are often signaled when a rare cancer is found to occur at markedly increased incidence in immunosuppressed populations.

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