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Jonathan Hofmann Awarded Scientific Tenure by the NIH

, by Julian Cantella, M.A.

In February 2022, Jonathan Hofmann, Ph.D., M.P.H., was awarded scientific tenure by the NIH and promoted to senior investigator in the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch. Dr. Hofmann is an internationally recognized leader in the study of etiology of kidney cancer, multiple myeloma, and other malignancies using molecular approaches. His research on toxic agents and other risk factors has had important public health implications worldwide.

Dr. Hofmann has made significant contributions to the understanding of cancer risk associated with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). This diverse class of synthetic chemicals is used in a range of industrial applications and consumer products like non-stick cookware, textiles, and firefighting foams. Using serial blood serum collected from the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screen Trial, Dr. Hofmann investigated the relationship between general population-level exposure to PFAS, as measured by serum concentrations, and kidney cancer risk. The study linked PFOA, a type of PFAS, to kidney cancer risk independent of diminished kidney function. This finding played a key role in the California Environmental Protection Agency’s draft public health goal for PFOA concentrations in drinking water.

In 2020, Dr. Hofmann was invited to present these findings at a National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine workshop. He also co-chaired a symposium on the health effects of PFAS at the Annual Conference of the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology.

In the area of occupational exposures and health, Dr. Hofmann is NCI co-principal investigator (PI) of the Agricultural Health Study (AHS) and PI of Biomarkers of Exposure and Effect in Agriculture (BEEA), which he designed and led field operations for. His work provided the first evidence linking use of several pesticides, particularly permethrin, to monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a precursor of multiple myeloma. He also reported on an exposure-response relationship between the herbicide atrazine and risk of kidney cancer.

Through molecular and genetic epidemiologic studies of multiple myeloma, Dr. Hofmann has provided novel insights into the ways obesity and immune dysregulation influence progression. These studies found evidence for a protective effect from adiponectin, a metabolic hormone typically under-expressed in individuals with obesity. With these findings, clinicians may better identify patients’ risk of progression, influencing the frequency of follow-up testing and referrals for more invasive or intensive procedures.