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Current Fellows in the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch

Meet the current fellows in the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch and learn about ITEB research training opportunities.

Mustapha Abubakar, M.D., Ph.D. – Research Fellow

Mustapha Abubakar, M.D., Ph.D., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in 2017 and was promoted to a research fellow in 2020. Dr. Abubakar earned his medical degree from Bayero University, Kano, Nigeria and subsequently underwent postgraduate residency training in histopathology in the Department of Pathology, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Nigeria. He obtained his M.Sc. in epidemiology from the Imperial College London, United Kingdom in 2012 and his Ph.D. in molecular epidemiology from the University of London’s Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, in 2017. Dr. Abubakar’s research is founded on his interest in bridging cancer biology and epidemiology by using an integrative patho-epidemiology approach that addresses knowledge gaps in tumor initiation and etiologic heterogeneity, disease progression, and clinical outcomes (recurrence and survival). For his research, Dr. Abubakar explores innovative ways to characterize normal, precursor, and invasive tissues, and tissue microenvironment, by using computational pathology approaches. Key focus of this work involves improving our understanding of the natural history of cancer and uncovering tissue biomarkers of cancer risk, progression, and clinical outcomes. In DCEG, Dr. Abubakar is working under the primary mentorship of Gierach Gretchen, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior investigator and Chief, ITEB, as well as Montserrat García-Closas, M.D., Dr.P.H., senior investigator, Trans-Divisional Research Program and Deputy Director, DCEG, and Xiaohong Rose Yang, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior investigator, ITEB, to conduct integrative patho-epidemiology studies of breast cancer. Dr. Abubakar has received the DCEG Fellows Award for Research Excellence (D-FARE), Intramural Research Award (IRA), and Fellowship Achievement Award.

Scientific Publications - Mustapha Abubakar

Derek Brown, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Derek Brown

Derek Brown, Ph.D., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) and the Biostatistics Branch (BB) as an NCI Cancer Prevention Fellow in October 2019. Dr. Brown earned his B.S. in mathematics from the University of Kansas in 2012 and received an M.S. in biostatistics from George Washington University in 2014. In 2019, he graduated with a Ph.D. in biostatistics from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Dr. Brown’s doctoral research focused on novel propensity score methods for non-binary treatments. In DCEG, Dr. Brown is working with Mitchell Machiela, Sc.D., M.P.H., Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator, ITEB, on clonal genetic mosaicism and cancer risk.

Scientific Publications – Derek Brown

Frank J. Colón-Matos, B.S. – Postbaccalaureate Fellow

Portrait of Frank Colón-Matos

Frank J. Colón-Matos, B.S., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) in September 2020 as an iCURE postbaccalaureate fellow. Mr. Colón Matos earned his B.S. in biology, minoring in psychology and chemistry, from the Inter American University of Puerto Rico. Prior to joining DCEG, he worked as an undergraduate fellow in the Inter American University of Puerto Rico. Mr. Colón Matos was also was a summer fellow in the Feinberg School of Medicine Northwestern University and in DCEG’s Radiation Epidemiology Branch. In his new role with NCI, he is assisting Maria Teresa Landi, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator, ITEB. He will be working on the Sherlock-Lung study, collecting and analyzing epidemiological and clinical data and participating in the design and implementation of the pathology-related work within the study.

Rajrupa Ghosh, M.P.H., M.Sc. - Predoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Rajrupa Ghosh

Rajrupa Ghosh, M.P.H., M.Sc., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a predoctoral fellow in February 2021. She earned her M.P.H. in epidemiology from the Texas A&M University (College Station, Texas) in 2015 and her M.Sc. in microbiology from the University of North Bengal (India). Ms. Ghosh is an NIH Graduate Partnership Program (GPP) fellow and is currently working towards completing her doctoral degree in epidemiology at the University of Maryland (UMD) School of Public Health in partnership with DCEG. Her research focuses on the role of endocrine therapy on risk of second cancers and mortality among breast cancer survivors. As a joint ITEB – UMD doctoral student, she is working on her dissertation under the mentorship of Gretchen Gierach, Ph.D., Chief and senior investigator, ITEB, and Cher Dallal, Ph.D., UMD. Ms. Ghosh is interested in exploring the relationship between hormones, adjuvant therapies, and breast cancer outcomes.

LiJin Joo, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Lijin Joo

LiJin Joo, Ph.D., joined DCEG as a postdoctoral fellow in May 2019. She is working jointly with the Biostatistics Branch (BB) and the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB). Dr. Joo received her Ph.D. in biostatistics from New York University, where she developed a Bayesian GWAS method for common complex diseases. She then completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship, serving in a joint position at Yale University and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. In this position, she worked on clinical trial design for immuno-oncology drugs and biomarker selection for identifying breast cancer patient subgroups. Her current areas of interest include somatic and germline mutations, as well as copy number variation from next generation sequencing data. In DCEG, Dr. Joo is working with Bin Zhu, Ph.D., tenure-track investigator, BB, and Xiaohong Rose Yang, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior investigator, ITEB, to explore and develop new methodologies to identify genomic features that are associated with etiology and outcomes in breast cancer and chordoma and compare their differences across ethnic groups.

Azhar Khandekar, B.S. – Predoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Azhar Khandekar

 

Azhar Khandekar, B.S., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a predoctoral fellow in September 2020. Mr. Khandekar is a Graduate Partnership Program (GPP) fellow, who is currently completing his degree in the bioinformatics and systems biology Ph.D. program at the University of California San Diego (UCSD). He previously worked at the NIH on integrating DNA methylation and somatic mutation data to study mechanisms of mutagenesis, and he is currently working on analyzing copy number variation and structural variants in normal and tumor genomes. As a joint ITEB and UCSD doctoral student, he is working on his dissertation research under the supervision of Maria Teresa Landi, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator, ITEB, and Ludmil Alexandrov, Ph.D., UCSD. Mr. Khandekar is interested in integrating large-scale omics datasets to ultimately elucidate the biological mechanisms that drive cancer formation and progression.

Olivia Lee, B.S. – Predoctoral Fellow 

Portrait of Olivia Lee

Olivia Lee, B.S., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a predoctoral fellow in January 2020. She earned her bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and subsequently had a postbaccalaureate fellowship at the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). Ms. Lee is an NIH Graduate Partnership Program (GPP) fellow and is currently completing her doctoral degree in quantitative sciences and cancer biology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth in partnership with DCEG. Her doctoral research focuses on profiling the genomic landscape of thyroid cancer metastasis and concurrent tumor, and investigating the interaction between somatic mutations and regulatory germline variants in Ewing Sarcoma. Ms. Lee is working on her dissertation under the mentorship of Stephen Chanock, M.D., Director, DCEG; Mitchell Machiela, Sc.D., M.P.H., Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator, ITEB; and John Weinstein, M.D., Ph.D., MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Scientific Publications – Olivia Lee

Shu-Hong Lin, Ph.D., M.S. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Shu-Hong Lin, Ph.D., M.S., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in January 2018. He earned his bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine from National Taiwan University in 2005 and received an M.S. degree in veterinary biosciences from the Ohio State University in 2012. In 2018, he graduated with a Ph.D. in cancer biology with an area of concentration in biostatistics, bioinformatics and systems biology from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Lin's doctoral research focused on identifying genomic and transcriptomic markers related to tumor progression in colorectal adenomas using next-generation sequencing. He also studied circulating biomarkers predictive of outcomes in non-invasive bladder cancer. In DCEG, he works with Mitchell Machiela, Sc.D., M.P.H., Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator, ITEB, to explore associations among genetic mosaicism, environmental factors, and cancer risk.

Scientific Publications – Shu-Hong Lin

Brittany Lord, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Brittany Denise Lord

Brittany Lord, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a postdoctoral Cancer Prevention Fellow in December 2020. Dr. Lord earned her Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Georgia in 2019. Working with Dr. Melissa B. Davis, her doctoral research focused on breast cancer disparities in women of African ancestry. She focused on defining the role of the atypical chemokine receptor (ACKR1/DARC) gene in modifying tumor immunogenicity during breast tumorigenesis. In May 2020, Dr. Lord earned her M.P.H. from Johns Hopkins University with a concentration in epidemiology and biostatistics. She also earned her M.S. in biotechnology from Claflin University, South Carolina, in May 2014. Dr. Lord’s research interests include understanding breast cancer disparities and the contribution of genetic ancestry to disease risk and reoccurrence, in addition to investigating epidemiologic risk factors for breast cancer in diverse populations. In ITEB, Dr. Lord is working with Gretchen Gierach, Ph.D., M.P.H., Chief and senior investigator, to assess epidemiologic and epigenetic risk factors for breast cancer, focusing on women of African ancestry.

Scientific Publications - Brittany Lord

Jian Sang, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Jian Sang

Jian Sang, Ph.D., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in September 2019. Dr. Sang earned his Ph.D. in bioinformatics from the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2019. Under the mentorship of Professor Zhang Zhang, his doctoral studies focused on public transcriptome and epigenome data integration and analysis. In ITEB, Dr. Sang works with Maria Teresa Landi, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator, and Tongwu Zhang, Ph.D., staff scientist, to investigate lung cancer pathogenesis by deep mining of whole genome/exome sequencing data.

Naoise Synnott, Ph.D., M.P.H. - Postdoctoral Fellow

Naoise Synnott, ITEB

Naoise Synnott, Ph.D., M.P.H., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a Cancer Prevention Fellow in September 2019. Dr. Synnott earned a B.A. (Mod.) in molecular medicine from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, in 2013 and a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University College Dublin, Ireland, in 2017. Under the mentorship of Professor Michael J. Duffy, her doctoral studies focused on the p53 as a therapeutic target in breast cancer. In May 2019, Dr. Synnott earned an M.P.H. from University College Dublin. Dr. Synnott is working with Maria Teresa Landi, Ph.D., M.D., senior investigator, ITEB, to study the etiology of lung cancers.

Scientific Publications – Naoise Synnott

Sally Lilian Yepes Torres, Ph.D., M.Sc. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Sally Yepes Torres, ITEB

Sally Yepes, M.Sc., Ph.D., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) and the Clinical Genetics Branch (CGB) as a postdoctoral fellow in May 2018. Dr. Yepes has a B.S. in biology, an M.Sc. in human genetics; she received her Ph.D. in biology in 2016 from the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. Her research interests focus on cancer genomics, in particular on the generation of knowledge from a data-driven perspective, and application of methodological frameworks from the statistical genomics, bioinformatics and elements of systems biology. In DCEG, she is working under the mentorship of Xiaohong Rose Yang, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior investigator, ITEB, and Alisa Goldstein, Ph.D., senior investigator, CGB, to identify and further investigate cancer susceptibility genes in familial melanoma and chordoma using integrative analyses of next-generation sequencing and other ‘omics data.

Scientific Publications – Sally Yepes

Wei Zhao, Ph.D. – Research Fellow

Wei Zhao, Ph.D., joined the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch (ITEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in November 2018. Dr. Zhao earned her Ph.D. in bioinformatics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under the supervision of Dr. Chuck Perou in 2014. Her doctoral research focused on characterization of the genomic and clinical heterogeneity of breast cancer subtypes using deep- sequencing and microarray. Prior to joining NCI, Dr. Zhao conducted postdoctoral training in the Department of Systems Biology in MD Anderson Cancer Center for four years. Working with Dr. Gordon Mills and Dr. Han Liang, she identified predictive molecular markers and drug targets for rational combinatorial therapy in gynecologic cancers, and developed computational tools for analysis of proteomic data. In ITEB, Dr. Zhao is working with Maria Teresa Landi, Ph.D., M.D., senior investigator, to investigate the etiology and progression of lung cancer in never smokers through a comprehensive genomic analysis and clinical and epidemiologic assessment.

Scientific Publications – Wei Zhao