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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Current Fellows in the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch

Meet the current fellows in the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch and learn about research training opportunities.

Christian S. Alvarez Privado, Ph.D., M.S.P.H. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Christian S. Alvarez Privado, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in May 2018. He earned his Ph.D in epidemiology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Prior to pursuing his Ph.D., Dr. Alvarez received an M.S. in public health from Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain. For his doctoral research, he explored the current epidemiological profile of prostate cancer in southern Thailand and assessed the potential impact of introducing a population-based screening program for prostate cancer on the burden of the disease in that region. Dr. Alvarez has also conducted research on cervical cancer screening programs in Latin America and in the Caribbean. He coordinated the development of a national plan for the prevention and control of cervical cancer in Guatemala. In MEB, Dr. Alvarez works with Katherine A. McGlynn, Ph.D., senior investigator, on studies of liver cancer in the United States and internationally.

 Scientific publications -Christian Alvarez

Eboneé Nicole Butler, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Eboneé Nicole Butler, Ph.D., M.P.H., joined DCEG as an NCI Cancer Prevention Fellow in October 2017. Dr. Butler earned a B.A. in biochemistry from Rice University in Houston, Texas and an M.P.H. in epidemiology from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. She completed her Ph.D. in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Butler’s research interests center on integrating epidemiology, molecular biology, and pathology to identify and evaluate prognostic and predictive biomarkers in prostate and breast tumors. Her research also seeks to better understand prostate and breast cancer etiology in people of African descent. In the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch, Dr. Butler works with Michael B. Cook, Ph.D., investigator, to examine prostate cancer etiology and to evaluate novel biomarkers that may identify aggressive prostate tumors at time of diagnosis.

 Scientific Publications - Eboneé Butler

Manila Hada, Ph.D., M.P.H. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Dr. Manila Hada joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) in January 2017 as a postdoctoral fellow.  Dr. Hada received her B.Sc. in pharmacy from the Kathmandu University, Nepal. She obtained her Ph.D. in biological chemistry in 2015 and her M.P.H. in epidemiology with a certification in global health in 2016, both from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her Ph.D. thesis focused on understanding how cancer cells use different mechanisms to prevent their own death. In neuroblastoma cells, she demonstrated that a DNA repair factor Ku70 acts as a survival factor to prevent cell death by binding to a pro-cell death protein --Bax. During her M.P.H. studies, she investigated the prevalence of cervical cancer and attitudes towards cervical self-sampling in southern Thailand and assessed the role of serum-retinol and risk of overall and site-specific cancer in the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene (ATBC) Cancer Prevention Study.  Working with Gretchen Gierach, Ph.D., investigator, MEB, and Dr. Britton Trabert, investigator, MEB, Dr. Hada's research focuses on molecular epidemiologic studies of breast and gynecologic cancers, using circulating hormones and intermediate endpoints to elucidate the etiology of hormonally-related female cancers.

Scientific Publications – Manila Hada

Maryam Hashemian, M.D., Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Maryam Hashemian, M.D., Ph.D., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in August 2016. She earned an M.D., from Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, Iran in 2002 and a Ph.D. in nutrition from Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Iran in 2015. Dr. Hashemian’s interest in nutritional epidemiology led her to study the association between dietary intake of minerals and esophageal cancer for her Ph.D. dissertation, utilizing the Golestan Cohort Study and working with Reza Malekzadeh, M.D., professor, Tehran University of Medical Sciences (TUMS) and Christian Abnet, Ph.D., M.P.H., Chief and senior investigator, MEB. Subsequently, Dr. Hashemian did a postdoctoral fellowship in the Digestive Disease Research Institute, TUMS, working on biomarkers in relation to diet and esophageal cancer in the Golestan Cohort Study. Her primary research interest is the nutritional epidemiology of gastrointestinal cancers. She is also interested in metabolic syndrome and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Currently, Dr. Hashemian is working on toenail trace element status and esophageal cancer with her mentors, Gwen Murphy, Ph.D., M.P.H., staff scientist, MEB, and Dr. Abnet.

Scientific Publications – Maryam Hashemian

Jiaqi Huang, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Jiaqi Huang, Ph.D., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in January 2016. Dr. Huang received her M.S. in molecular biology/biomedicine in June 2009 and her Ph.D. in epidemiology in December 2015, both from the Karolinska Institute of Sweden. Her doctoral research focused on the epidemiology and etiology of pancreatic cancer and included both molecular and cancer registry-based epidemiologic studies.  Her work included variant profiling of candidate genes in pancreatic cancer based on the anchored-multiplex PCR method. She also evaluated potential risk factors for pancreatic cancer, including poor oral hygiene, hepatitis C or B virus infection, Helicobacter pylori infection, N-nitrosamine, and psychological stress.  She is working with Demetrius Albanes, M.D., senior investigator, MEB, to investigate prostate cancer etiology, metabolomics profiling of cancer, and vitamin/nutrient exposures as they relate to cancer. 

Scientific Publications - Jiaqi Huang

Lauren Hurwitz, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Lauren Hurwitz, Ph.D., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch as a Cancer Prevention Fellow in September 2018. Dr. Hurwitz received her Ph.D. in epidemiology from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2018.   For her doctoral research, she evaluated associations between use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and prostate cancer incidence, mortality, and recurrence. She also investigated the relationship between aspirin use and markers of immune cells in prostate tissue. In MEB, Dr. Hurwitz is working with Britton Trabert, Ph.D., investigator, to examine whether modifiable risk factors modify associations between aspirin use and cancer risk, and Michael Cook, Ph.D., investigator, to study the etiology of and risk factors for prostate cancer.

Scientific Publications – Lauren Hurwitz

Parisa Karimi, M.D., Dr.P.H, - Postdoctoral Fellow

Parisa Karimi, M.D., Dr.P.H, joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in October of 2018.  Prior to completing her Dr.P.H., she joined MEB as a predoctoral fellow in March 2017. She obtained her medical degree from the Iran University of Medical Science, Tehran, and received doctorate in public health with a concentration in the Environmental and Occupational Health from the George Washington University. Her research interests include investigating the role of environmental factors and contaminants in the development of non-communicable diseases. She is also interested in applying findings from epidemiologic studies to shape and revise national and international health regulations. Before joining DCEG, she collaborated with scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, George Washington University, and Tehran University of Medical Sciences on multidisciplinary studies to investigate the etiology of bladder and gastrointestinal cancers, asthma, diabetes mellitus, and several autoimmune diseases. In DCEG, she is working with Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior investigator, MEB, to investigate dietary, lifestyle, and genetic risk factors for pancreatic cancer.

Erikka Loftfield, Ph.D. – Research Fellow

Erikka Loftfield, Ph.D., joined DCEG as a predoctoral fellow through the Yale University-NCI Partnership Training Program in August 2013. Dr. Loftfield completed her Ph.D. at Yale University in 2015, became a postdoctoral fellow in the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch (NEB) in March 2015, and was promoted to Research Fellow in the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) in November 2016. She earned a B.A. in biology from Cornell University and an M.P.H. in chronic disease epidemiology with a concentration in global health from the Yale School of Public Health. Dr. Loftfield’s dissertation research explored the associations of coffee drinking with mortality and cancer and used emerging technologies, including untargeted metabolomics and multiplex immune and inflammatory marker panels, to help elucidate potential mechanisms underlying these associations. Currently, under the mentorship of Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., senior investigator and Neal D. Freedman, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior investigator, Dr. Loftfield’s research seeks to advance our understanding of associations between prevalent diet-related exposures, such as coffee and obesity, and cancer risk through integrated studies of dietary intake, diet-related metabolites, and the microbiome. In addition, Dr. Loftfield is interested in dietary assessment and epidemiologic methods including the profiling of heterogeneous foods, such as coffee, using metabolomics, and the evaluation of biospecimen collection methods for multi-omic analyses in large, population-based studies.

Scientific Publications - Erikka Loftfield

Kathleen M. McClain, Ph.D., M.S. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Kathleen M. McClain, Ph.D., M.S., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) of DCEG as a postdoctoral fellow in September 2018. Dr. McClain earned her Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2018, her M.S. in biostatistics from Georgetown University, and her B.S. in mathematics from Hofstra University. Her doctoral research focused on associations between dietary intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids and Barrett’s esophagus, esophageal adenocarcinoma, and gastric cardia adenocarcinoma under the mentorship of Dr. Marilie Gammon. Her research interests include modifiable lifestyle factors and cancer, particularly in rare tumors. In DCEG, Dr. McClain is working with Steven C. Moore, Ph.D., M.P.H., investigator, MEB, on studies examining the components of energy balance, metabolomics, and cancer.

Scientific Publications - Kathleen McClain


Kara Michels, Ph.D.- Postdoctoral Fellow

Kara Michels, Ph.D., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) of DCEG in 2016 after having completed two years of postdoctoral research at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). She received her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from Vanderbilt University (2014), her M.P.H. from the University of Kentucky, and her B.A. in biology from Willamette University. Dr. Michels is interested in how potentially modifiable factors, such as diet, inflammation, and hormonal exposures, influence women’s reproductive health across the lifespan. At DCEG, working under the mentorship of Britton Trabert, Ph.D., M.S., investigator, MEB, she is studying the etiology of ovarian and endometrial cancers—focusing on cancer risk associated with molecular markers and reproductive factors. Some of her recent work explored the interaction between and influence of oral contraceptive use and health behaviors on cancer development. Dr. Michels is also investigating one-carbon metabolism and risk for endometrial cancer and is evaluating factors associated with postmenopausal androgen metabolism.

Scientific Publications - Kara Michels

Jessica Petrick, Ph.D., M.P.H. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Jessica Petrick

Jessica L. Petrick, Ph.D., M.P.H., joined DCEG as a postdoctoral fellow in June 2014. She obtained a B.A. in public health studies and medical anthropology, and an M.P.H. (2008) in epidemiology and health policy from Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Petrick received her Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014. For her doctoral dissertation, Dr. Petrick examined the intake of dietary flavonoids in relation to the incidence of Barrett esophagus and esophageal and gastric cancer, and to survival among esophageal and gastric cancer cases. Her Ph.D. mentor was Dr. Marilie Gammon. In the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB), Dr. Petrick works with Katherine A. McGlynn, Ph.D., senior investigator, on liver cancer studies assessing gender-specific effects of risk factors such as coffee consumption, diabetes, obesity and steroid hormone levels, and with Michael B. Cook, Ph.D., investigator, on the effects of adiposity on esophageal adenocarcinoma risk.

Scientific Publications - Jessica Petrick

Natalie Rose Pritchett, M.S.P.H. – Predoctoral Fellow

Natalie Rose Pritchett, M.S.P.H., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) as a predoctoral fellow in September 2018. Ms. Pritchett earned her M.S.P.H. in health policy and management from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011. Working with Dr. Douglas Morgan, her thesis research focused on a cost-effectiveness analysis of screening and treating H. pylori to prevent stomach cancer in a high-risk population in Honduras. Since her graduation, she completed a Peace Corps service in Nicaragua and worked as an oncology research assistant in Rwanda for Partners in Health. In September 2018, Ms. Pritchett returned to school to earn a D.R.P.H. from George Washington University with a concentration in environmental and occupational health. Ms. Pritchett’s research interests include the study of upper gastrointestinal cancers in high-risk populations and environmental exposure risk factors, particularly indoor air pollution and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Ms. Pritchett is working with Sanford M. Dawsey, M.D., senior investigator, MEB, to investigate the epidemiology of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma in hotspot areas, especially the distinct geographic band along the eastern Africa corridor extending from Ethiopia to South Africa.

Scientific Publications – Natalie Pritchett

 Pedro F. Saint-Maurice, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Pedro Saint-Maurice, Ph.D., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) as a postdoctoral fellow in October 2016. He obtained his Ph.D. in kinesiology at Iowa State University in 2013 under the supervision of Gregory Welk. He subsequently worked as a research consultant, establishing research collaborations/consulting services between the Physical Activity and Health Promotion Laboratory at Iowa State University and the Cooper Institute, located in Dallas, Texas. His dissertation work focused on developing more accurate methods to build/test physical activity measures for epidemiology research and culminated with the creation and calibration of an online instrument called the Youth Activity Profile (YAP) that is now being used as part of a large childhood obesity campaign in the NFL PLAY60 FITNESSGRAM project.  In MEB, Dr. Saint-Maurice is working under the mentorship of Charles E. Matthews, Ph.D., senior investigator. His research focuses on understanding the dose-response relationship between physical activity and different chronic diseases, including cancer. Dr. Saint-Maurice is also interested in different physical activity measurement tools and the impact of measurement error when studying the benefits of physical activity for health. 

Scientific Publications – Pedro Saint-Maurice

Elizabeth Ann Salerno, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Elizabeth Ann Salerno, Ph.D., M.P.H., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) as a Cancer Prevention Fellow in September 2018. Dr. Salerno earned her Ph.D. in kinesiology with an emphasis in exercise psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2017 under the mentorship of Dr. Edward McAuley. Her doctoral research focused on understanding the social cognitive determinants and consequences of physical activity behavior in aging populations and breast cancer survivors. In May 2018, Dr. Salerno earned an M.P.H. from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with a concentration in biostatistical and epidemiological methods for public health and clinical research. Dr. Salerno’s interests include leveraging physical activity behavior to improve health outcomes during and after cancer, specifically cancer-related cognitive impairment, and advocating for the implementation of lifestyle behaviors into the standard of care for survivors. Dr. Salerno is working with Charles E. Matthews, Ph.D., senior investigator, MEB, to investigate physical activity behavior across the cancer continuum from an epidemiological perspective.

 Scientific Publications - Elizabeth Salerno

Susan Spillane, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., M.Pharm – Postdoctoral Fellow

Susan Spillane, Ph.D., M.S.P.H., M.Pharm., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch as a Cancer Prevention Fellow in November 2017. Following her pharmacy studies, Dr. Spillane earned her Ph.D. in cancer pharmacoepidemiology from Trinity College Dublin in April 2014. Her doctoral research examined colorectal cancer outcomes following exposure to anti-diabetic treatments, particularly metformin, and to aspirin. Prior to joining the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program, Dr. Spillane performed drug utilization research and pharmacoeconomic assessment with the National Medicines Management Programme and the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics in Ireland, and went on to study her M.S.P.H. (health economics stream), at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Dr. Spillane is working with Neal Freedman, Ph.D., senior investigator, MEB, on a program of descriptive epidemiology research. This work includes examination of causes of premature mortality among cancer survivors and the general population within the U.S.A.

Scientific Publications - Susan Spillane

Emily Vogtmann, Ph.D., M.P.H., – Research Fellow

Emily Vogtmann, Ph.D., M.P.H., joined DCEG as a Cancer Prevention Fellow in August 2013 and was promoted to Research Fellow in June 2016. She received an M.P.H. in international health epidemiology from the University of Michigan in 2009, where she investigated human papillomavirus knowledge and mortality trends for cervical cancer in Mexico. She received a Ph.D. in epidemiology in 2013 from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Vogtmann's doctoral dissertation work focused on cruciferous vegetable intake, GST gene polymorphisms and colorectal cancer among men in Shanghai, China, and was completed in collaboration with the Shanghai Cancer Institute and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB), Dr. Vogtmann works with Christian Abnet Ph.D., M.P.H., Chief of MEB, and Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., senior investigator. Specifically, her research focuses on: 1) evaluating methods related to microbiome studies for epidemiologic applications; 2) assessing associations between the human microbiome and cancer risk factors, such as tobacco smoking; and 3) determining the relationship between the human microbiome and cancer etiology, with a particular focus on gastrointestinal cancer risk.

Scientific Publications - Emily Vogtmann

Shao Ming Wang, M.D., Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Shao Ming Wang, M.D., Ph.D., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) as a  postdoctoral fellow in September 2016. Dr. Wang received her M.D. from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in 2008 and her Ph.D. in cancer epidemiology from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College in 2013. After graduation, Dr. Wang  became an Assistant Professor in the Cancer Institute of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College. In MEB, Dr. Wang works with Christian Abnet, Ph.D., M.P.H., Chief of MEB chief and senior investigator, Philip R. Taylor, M.D., Sc.D., senior investigator, and Gwen Murphy, Ph.D., M.P.H., staff scientist, to conduct etiological studies of upper gastrointestinal cancer in the Nutritional Intervention Trial (NIT), conducted in China. She focuses on: 1) determining the long-term effects of nutritional interventions on health outcomes including cancers and other diseases of aging in the Chinese population; 2) assessing the association between different risk factors and upper gastrointestinal cancers risk; and 3) calculating risk predictive models of upper gastrointestinal cancers in combination with metabolic and risk factor data.

Scientific Publications - Shao Ming Wang

Erik Willis, Ph.D., M.P.H. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Erik Willis, Ph.D., M.P.H., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) as an NCI Cancer Prevention Fellow in October 2017. Dr. Willis earned his Ph.D. in exercise physiology from the University of Kansas in 2016 under the mentorship of Dr. Joseph E. Donnelly. His doctoral research focused on remote delivery of weight management interventions utilizing online social networks and distance learning strategies. In May 2017, Dr. Willis earned an M.P.H. from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, with a concentration in epidemiology and biostatistics. In MEB, Dr. Willis is working with Charles E. Matthews, Ph.D., senior investigator. Dr. Willis’ research interests focus on effects of lifestyle factors — specifically physical activity, overweight and obesity — on various chronic diseases, including cancer.

Scientific Publications - Erik Willis