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Zhiwei Liu Appointed to Tenure Track in the Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch

, by DCEG Staff

Zhiwei Liu, Ph.D.

Zhiwei Liu, Ph.D., a newly appointed tenure-track investigator in the Infections and Immunoepidemiology Branch (IIB), investigates the role of infection and immune response in the etiology of virus-related cancers—primarily Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC), and hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatocellular cancer.

Utilizing high-throughput omics technologies and other cutting-edge techniques, as well as classical epidemiologic methods, Dr. Liu seeks to identify opportunities for prevention and screening and to clarify the role of host genetics in disease progression. Foundational to these goals are novel methods to improve and enhance research approaches.

Dr. Liu leads a team of epidemiologists and laboratory colleagues focused on identifying EBV-based serologic markers for screening and early detection of NPC in high-risk populations. He also attempts to optimize methods for analyzing EBV whole-genome sequencing data, which will enable future studies to dissect the role of EBV genetic variants in several EBV-associated cancers, starting with NPC. He is also piloting a study to determine whether EBV variants can be reliably detected in saliva samples. If successful, this effort will lay the groundwork for an examination of EBV variants in relation to development of NPC.

In the arena of host genetics, Dr. Liu plans to examine T-cell immune responses against EBV in people with a family history of NPC to explore whether inadequate immune control of EBV infection can explain the elevated risk of NPC among individuals from NPC families.

Dr. Liu’s studies of HBV include new efforts in viral genome sequencing to understand the association between HBV quasi-species and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma and investigations into the role of variation in human leukocyte antigen (HLA) proteins, which are important in immunity, in the development of HBV-associated hepatocellular carcinoma.

While a fellow in IIB, his investigation of liver and biliary tract cancers in a large registry-based database in the United Kingdom showed for the first time the association of statin use with reduced risk of biliary tract cancers. He also demonstrated that aspirin use is associated with better survival following a diagnosis of biliary tract cancers.

Dr. Liu has received several awards to support his research, including the Fellowship Achievement Award, Intramural Research Award, and the Fellows Award for Research Excellence.

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