Amy Berrington Departs DCEG for the U.K.
, by Jennifer K. Loukissas, M.P.P.
In September, Amy Berrington, D.Phil., Chief and senior investigator in the Radiation Epidemiology Branch (REB), will leave DCEG to begin a faculty position at the Institute for Cancer Research (ICR) in London, England. In addition to her outstanding leadership of the REB over the past seven years, more recently Dr. Berrington assumed the role of senior advisor for strategic activities, providing advice to the Director on the Division’s research portfolio, and co-leading strategic planning with the TDRP Director Montserrat García-Closas, M.D., Dr.P.H. Together they deftly guided the 18-month process that resulted in the 2020-2025 DCEG Strategic Plan.
“Dr. Berrington has been instrumental in developing the Division’s strategic plan while making critical contributions to a range of functions as a member of the Division’s leadership,” said Dr. García-Closas, “and as a central architect of the Connect for Cancer Prevention Study, the newly launched cohort study that is set to enroll 200,000 adults from partner sites across the country.”
Radiation Epidemiologist Protects the Public Health
Dr. Berrington, an internationally recognized cancer epidemiologist, has made important contributions to our understanding of cancer risk resulting from medical radiation exposures. Her discoveries have informed clinical practices related to screening, diagnostic imaging, and radiotherapy in pediatric and adult patients. During her tenure at the NCI, she led several studies to evaluate these exposures, including the UK Pediatric CT Scans Cohort, the Kaiser Breast Cancer Survivors Study, and the U.S. Pediatric Proton Therapy Cohort. The UK Cohort was the first epidemiological study to support a direct link between childhood CT scans and subsequent cancer risk. As a result, hospitals and imaging centers in the U.S. and globally have changed protocols to reduce radiation exposure for children, who are most radiosensitive. This work led to the development of the NCI Radiation Risk Assessment Tool (RadRAT), an interactive computer software that generates models to estimate lifetime cancer risk from exposure to radiation from medical tests and procedures. Ongoing work in the Breast Cancer Survivors Study and the Pediatric Proton Therapy Cohort promises to improve our understanding of radiotherapy-related long-term effects and inform other important cancer survivorship research questions.
“Dr. Berrington has been tremendously influential in radiation epidemiology, not only because of her impactful research findings but also because of her high standards for research methodology, commitment to strategically advancing research in many different radiation-exposed populations, and support of new investigators coming into the field,” said Lindsay Morton, Ph.D., Deputy Chief and senior investigator in REB. “We have all substantially benefitted from Amy’s leadership and will miss her very much, both professionally and personally.”
Big-picture Focus on Public Health Beyond Cancer
Together with Meredith Shiels, Ph.D., M.H.S., Neal Freedman, Ph.D., and colleagues across DCEG, Dr. Berrington established a program of research into premature mortality, uncovering worrisome trends across racial and ethnic groups. During the COVID pandemic crisis, Dr. Berrington highlighted the importance of accounting for population growth in excess death calculations and highlighted major racial/ethnic disparities in excess death rates.
Dr. Berrington has co-led large consortial studies that have carefully examined the relationship between obesity and cancer risk and showed that BMI outside the normal range is associated with increased risk of death from all causes in never-smokers. “Amy is a world-class epidemiologist who applies exceptional rigor in study design and the interpretation of scientific findings,” remarked Stephen J. Chanock, M.D., Director, DCEG. “Her commitment to excellence permeates all aspects of her work. Though we will miss her greatly she leaves DCEG well positioned for the future."
Outstanding Mentor, Champion of Scientists from Underrepresented Groups
An advocate for junior scientists, in particular women and investigators from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences, Dr. Berrington was recognized as an outstanding mentor and champion with the 2018 Women Scientist Advisors Mentoring and Leadership Award, with over 20 glowing letters of support.
Dr. Berrington is a leader in numerous national and international radiation and cancer advisory committees including membership on the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board, to which she was appointed vice-chair in April 2022, and co-founder of the International Society for Radiation Epidemiology and Dosimetry (ISORED). She is an elected member of the American Epidemiological Society and served on the editorial board for the American Journal of Epidemiology. Before joining the NCI, she held faculty positions at Oxford and Johns Hopkins University.