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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Statistical methods for studying disease etiologic heterogeneity - Dr. Molin Wang

DCEG Seminar Series


Molin Wang, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Departments of Biostatistics and Epidemiology,
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School


A fundamental goal of epidemiologic research is to investigate the relationship between exposures and disease risk. Cases of the disease are often considered a single outcome, and assumed to share a common etiology. However, evidence indicates that many human diseases arise and evolve through a range of heterogeneous molecular pathologic processes, influenced by diverse exposures. In this talk, Dr. Wang will discuss design and analytic options for studying disease etiologic heterogeneity, emphasizing methods for evaluating whether the association of a potential risk factor with disease varies by disease subtype. Methods will be discussed for scenarios where disease subtypes are categorical and ordinal, scenarios where disease subtypes are defined by multiple markers, where disease subtypes data are missing or misclassified among some cases, and for cohort studies, matched and unmatched case-control studies, and case-case study designs. For illustration, the methods are applied to a molecular pathological epidemiology study of colorectal cancer.


Mitchell H. Gail, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Investigator, Biostatistics Branch,
Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute

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