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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 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

John Aversa, M.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

John Aversa, M.D., became a postdoctoral fellow in MEB in July 2018. He earned a B.S. in chemical and biomolecular engineering from the University of Notre Dame in 2012 and an M.D. from the Indiana University School of Medicine in 2016. He has completed two years of general surgery residency at Indiana University. He came to the National Institutes of Health as part of the NCI Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program. He will spend a total of 17 months working under the tutelage of Maria Constanza Camargo, Ph.D., Earl Stadtman Investigator, MEB and will assist in efforts to better understand the epidemiology and early detection of gastrointestinal tumors with a special focus on esophageal cancer.

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

Doratha (Armen) Byrd, Ph.D., M.P.H. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Doratha (Armen) Byrd, Ph.D., M.P.H., joined MEB as a postdoctoral fellow in January 2019. Dr. Byrd received a B.S. in biology and an M.P.H. in epidemiology from the University of Florida. She completed her Ph.D. in epidemiology from Emory University, where her dissertation research focused on the development and validation of novel, inflammation biomarker panel-weighted dietary and lifestyle inflammation scores, and their associations with colorectal neoplasms.  In MEB, Dr. Byrd works under the mentorship of Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., senior investigator, Christian Abnet, Ph.D, M.P.H., Chief and senior investigator, MEB, Emily Vogtmann, Ph.D, M.P.H., Earl Stadtman tenure-track investigator, and Erikka Loftfield, Ph.D., research fellow. Currently, Dr. Byrd is conducting methodologic and etiologic microbiome studies and investigating associations of diet with the gut metabolome.

Andres Julian Gutierrez Escobar, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Andres J. Gutierrez-Escobar, Ph.D., joined MEB as a postdoctoral fellow in February 2019. He received an M.S. in biomedical sciences from the Universidad del Quindío and a Ph.D. in biology from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia. His dissertation focused on phylogenomic analysis of Helicobacter pylori isolates from residents in high gastric cancer risk area in Colombia. Dr. Gutierrez works on the Helicobacter pylori Genome Project under the mentorship of M. Constanza Camargo, Ph.D., Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator, MEB, and Charles Rabkin, M.D., senior investigator, Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch. He also works with Dr. Camargo and Christian Abnet, Ph.D., M.P.H., Chief and senior investigator, MEB, on a gastric cancer genome-wide association study in Hispanics/Latinos.

Jiaqi Huang, Ph.D. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Jiaqi Huang, Ph.D., joined 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 MEB 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

Sachelly Julian-Serrano, M.H.S.N., R.D.– Postbaccalaureate Fellow

Sachelly Julian-Serrano joined MEB as a postbaccalaureate fellow in October 2018. Ms. Julian-Serrano earned her master’s degree in public health with specialization in nutrition from the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus in 2017. Her master’s research project focused on the modifying effect of genetic ancestry in the association of red and processed meats consumption and colorectal neoplasia risk in Puerto Rican Hispanics, under the mentorship of Dr. Marcia Cruz-Correa. In July 2018, she completed her dietetic internship program from the same university. Sachelly is currently working with Rachael Stolzenberg-Solomon, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., senior investigator, MEB, where she investigates the genetic susceptibility of higher blood iron levels and hematologic traits and risk of pancreatic cancer within the PanScan and PanC4 consortia.

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 2015, and was promoted to research fellow in MEB in 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 MEB 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. 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.- Research Fellow

Kara Michels, Ph.D., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) of DCEG in 2016 as a postdoctoral fellow and was promoted to research fellow in 2019. She previously completed a two-year postdoctoral fellowship 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 studies the health of women’s reproductive systems, focusing on improving our understanding of the metabolic pathways that play a role in the development of gynecologic cancer. She is also interested in how potentially modifiable factors—such as diet, obesity, sleep, infection, and medication use—influence cancer risk through these pathways. At DCEG, Dr. Michels works under the mentorship of Britton Trabert, Ph.D., M.S., investigator, MEB, and conducts studies on molecular markers and reproductive factors associated with ovarian and endometrial cancer risk. 

Scientific Publications - Kara Michels

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

Natalie Rose Pritchett, M.S.P.H., joined 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 Dr.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 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. - Postdoctoral Fellow

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

Dantong Shao, M.D. – Predoctoral Fellow

Portrait of Dantong Shao

Dantong Shao, M.D., joined the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB) as a predoctoral fellow in November 2019. Ms. Shao is a Ph.D. candidate at the National Cancer Center, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College. Prior to beginning her Ph.D. program, Ms. Shao received her M.D. in public health from Sun Yat-sen University. Her doctoral research focuses on the association between microbial communities and upper gastrointestinal cancer. While in MEB, Ms. Shao will be working with Christian Abnet, Ph.D., M.P.H., Chief and senior investigator, and Emily Vogtmann, Ph.D., M.P.H., Earl Stadtman Tenure-track Investigator, to examine associations between the oral microbiome and cancer risk.

 Scientific Publications - Dantong Shao

Yukiko Yano, Ph.D., M.P.H. – Postdoctoral Fellow

Yukiko Yano, Ph.D., M.P.H., joined MEB as a postdoctoral fellow in January 2019. Dr. Yano earned her Ph.D. in environmental health sciences from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018. Prior to obtaining her Ph.D., Dr. Yano received an M.P.H. in environmental health from Emory University. Her doctoral research involved measurements of protein adducts in archived newborn dried blood spots to explore fetal exposures associated with childhood leukemia. Dr. Yano is working with the MEB microbiome group under the mentorship of Christian Abnet, Ph.D., M.P.H., Chief and senior investigator; Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D., senior investigator; and Emily Vogtmann, Ph.D., M.P.H., Earl Stadtman Tenure-Track Investigator. Her research includes methodologic and etiologic studies of the human oral microbiome as well as studies of risk factors for esophageal and gastric cancer.