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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D.

Senior Investigator

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Phone: 240-760-6600

Spotlight on Investigator

Read Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon's profile (pdf) in the March 2010 Linkage.

Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D.

Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D.

Organization:National Cancer Institute
Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Metabolic Epidemiology Branch
Address:NCI Shady Grove
Room 6E420


Dr. Stolzenberg-Solomon received a B.S. in nutrition and dietetics at the University of California, Davis in 1984, followed by a dietetic internship and M.Ed. in health science (nutrition) education at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and George Peabody School of Education, respectively. After this training she worked as a registered dietitian for 10 years. In 1994 she completed a M.P.H. with concentrations in epidemiology and nutrition at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. Dr. Stolzenberg-Solomon joined the NCI in 1996 as a predoctoral fellow in the Cancer Prevention Studies Branch in the in the former Division of Cancer Prevention and Control and later the Center for Cancer Research, and subsequently earned a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1999. As a Cancer Prevention Fellow, she continued postdoctoral research in the Division of Cancer Prevention and DCEG. She became an investigator in the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch in December 2002, and was awarded NIH scientific tenure and promoted to senior investigator in 2011.

Dr. Stolzenberg-Solomon has won several awards in recognition of her contributions to cancer research, including the 2008 NIH Merit Award for sustained and innovative work in elucidating nutritional, genetic, infectious, and other determinants of pancreatic cancer. She is an active mentor, working with graduate students, as well as postdoctoral fellows. She serves on the editorial board of the American Journal of Epidemiology and Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention. Dr. Stolzenberg-Solomon also holds a position as an adjunct Associate Professor at the Yale University School of Public Health and is a fellow of the American College of Epidemiology.

Research Interests

  • Dietary, lifestyle, genetic and other risk factors for pancreatic cancer
  • Nutritional, molecular, and other biomarkers (i.e. metabolomics) and cancer

Dr. Stolzenberg-Solomon has focused much of her research on elucidating the etiology of pancreatic cancer. She has examined dietary, other lifestyle,genetic, and infectious factors, including biomarkers that may help reveal underlying mechanisms of carcinogenesis. In addition to her major work on pancreatic cancer, she has pursued, on a limited basis, other nutrition-cancer hypotheses. These include the changes in biomarkers within interventions studies, etiologic factors in liver and renal cancers, and certain aspects of one-carbon metabolism in the etiology of gastrointestinal, renal cell, and colorectal cancers, and lymphoma.

Exocrine pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer mortality rates among men and women in the United States. As there are no effective screening methods for detection of this malignancy, it is typically diagnosed at advanced stages, which contributes to a dismal 5-year survival rate of 5%. Few consistent risk factors for pancreatic cancer have been identified, with type 2 diabetes, cigarette smoke, and obesity being the most consistent. An additional 10-15% of pancreatic cancers may be accounted for by inherited germline disorders. As with other human genetic cancer risk, most genetic susceptibility related to pancreatic cancer, is likely due to low-penetrant but common susceptibility alleles that are not yet identified. Dietary factors likely play a role, although the specific components and mechanisms remain unclear, primarily because of limited and inconsistent study findings. The lack of identification of consistent risk factors may reflect the methodologic difficulties, including reverse causation due to latent disease and biases associated with collecting data for this rapidly fatal gastrointestinal cancer. Cohort studies with prediagnostic measures of exposures are less prone to these problems. Therefore, she has principally conducted her research using prospective data from DCEG cohorts, and through new pooled consortia efforts, including the international Genome Wide Association Study of Pancreatic Cancer (PanScan).