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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Ludmila Prokunina-Olsson, Ph.D.

Senior Investigator
Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics

NCI Advanced Technology Research Facility | ATC Room 134C


Dr. Prokunina-Olsson received an M.Sc. in Molecular Genetics from Moscow State University, Russia, and a Ph.D. in Medical Genetics from Uppsala University, Sweden. During 2005-2008 she was a visiting fellow with Dr. Francis Collins in the Genome Technology Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH. Dr. Prokunina-Olsson joined the Laboratory of Translational Genomics of DCEG as a research fellow in June 2008, became a tenure-track investigator in April 2010, and was awarded NIH scientific tenure and promoted to senior investigator in December 2014. She became Acting Chief of LTG in February 2018 and was appointed as Chief in December 2018. Dr. Prokunina-Olsson has been recognized for her research contributions with an NCI Director’s Merit Award, several NCI Innovation and Intramural Research Awards and several awards outside the NIH. She received the DCEG Outstanding Mentor Award in 2017.

Research Interests

Recent genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified multiple common germline genetic susceptibility variants that may play a role in a variety of human diseases and outcomes. Dr. Prokunina-Olsson explores the connections between the GWAS-identified genetic susceptibility variants and molecular phenotypes of importance for cancer. Some of her findings resulted in translational and clinical applications.

Genetics of Bladder Cancer

Several GWAS for bladder cancer risk in individuals of European ancestry discovered 15 genomic regions with statistically significant associations. In addition to contribution to GWAS efforts, Dr. Prokunina-Olsson leads the post-GWAS analysis of these regions that includes genetic fine-mapping and functional molecular analysis of the candidate genetic variants and genes. In addition to bioinformatics tools, her lab uses a wide range of experimental tools to explore both coding and non-coding genetic variants, such as DNA and RNA sequencing, genotyping, RNA and protein expression, DNA-protein interaction analysis, genome editing, cell culture, epigenetic studies, etc. She is also exploring the regulation of somatic mutagenesis in bladder tumors by germline variants and environmental factors. So far, she has comprehensively explored and published results of her studies on five of 15 GWAS regions associated with bladder cancer risk; the work on other GWAS regions is ongoing.

Genetics of Infection and Cancer

Recently, Dr. Prokunina-Olsson’s lab has discovered a novel human interferon, IFN-λ4, by performing a follow-up of GWAS findings for clearance of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Chronic HCV is a primary etiological factor for the development of chronic liver disease and liver cancer. Dr. Prokunina-Olsson leads the genetic and functional studies on IFN-λ4 in relation to HCV and several other infections associated with cancer.

Prokunina-Olsson Lab Members

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