Dr. Meredith Shiels earned her M.H.S. and Ph.D. in cancer epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She joined the Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch (IIB) as a Cancer Research Training Award postdoctoral fellow in 2009. She was awarded the Sallie Rosen Kaplan Fellowship for Women Scientists in Cancer Research that same year, and was promoted to research fellow in 2011. In 2016, Dr. Shiels became a tenure-track investigator in IIB. In 2020, she was the DCEG recipient of the Women Scientist Advisor’s Mentoring and Leadership Award.
Dr. Shiels uses innovative approaches to confront high-impact public health questions with population-based data resources and descriptive analyses. She combines multiple population-based data resources, quantifies the contribution of risk factors to time trends, and disaggregates cancer incidence and mortality rates to reveal underlying patterns and explanatory mechanisms. Currently, her research program focuses on 1) quantifying cancer risk and burden in people living with HIV; 2) estimating the impact of risk factors on changing cancer rates over time; and 3) understanding rising rates of premature mortality in the United States.
Cancer Risk and Burden in the HIV-infected Population
Cancer is a significant comorbidity among people living with HIV and understanding the shifting landscape of cancer risk and burden has public health implications for prevention and the allocation of both research and resources. Dr. Shiels’ work among HIV-infected people quantifies the evolving epidemiology of cancer; provides insight into cancer etiology; and examines the association between HIV and cancer progression. Dr. Shiels is the co-principal investigator of the HIV/AIDS Cancer Match Study, a data linkage study of population-based HIV and cancer registries in the United States. Her recent work has projected future cancer rates and burden among U.S. adults with HIV, showing a decline in the number of cases of Kaposi sarcoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma and an increase in the number of lung and prostate cancers.
The Impact of Risk Factors on Trends in Cancer Rates
Dr. Shiels’ research program characterizes the extent to which candidate risk factors are driving observed temporal increases or decreases in cancer incidence rates. As cancer registries generally do not collect risk factor data, she uses linked databases and statistical modeling to disaggregate rates based on etiology, which is important for targeted prevention efforts. In recent studies, Dr. Shiels estimated the role of hepatitis C and hepatitis B viruses in rising rates of hepatocellular carcinoma, and the impact of the increasing prevalence of overweight and obesity on rising rates of papillary thyroid cancers.
Investigating Premature Mortality Rates in the United States
Dr. Shiels has additionally applied her expertise in interrogating large, population-based data to address specific public health questions related to the underlying drivers of premature mortality (deaths among 25-64-year-olds) rates in the United States, with a focus on the evolving drug overdose epidemic, which is a main contributor to rising premature mortality rates in some groups. Her recent studies have used U.S. national death certificate data to systematically assess and compare trends in premature, youth and infant mortality rates for each major cause of death by race/ethnicity and sex and to examine trends in premature overall and drug overdose death rates across measures of county-level socioeconomic status. She also has examined drug overdose death rates by race/ethnicity and specific contributing drug.
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