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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Sonja Berndt Awarded Scientific Tenure by the NIH

Sonja Berndt

In March 2017, Sonja Berndt, Pharm.D., Ph.D., was awarded scientific tenure by the NIH and promoted to senior investigator in the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch (OEEB). Dr. Berndt’s research focuses on the genetic and molecular etiology of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and prostate cancer, as well as anthropometric traits that are known risk factors for cancer. She employs sophisticated and novel statistical methods to integrate knowledge from different disciplines to reveal the underlying risk factors for cancer.

As co-principal investigator of a large multicenter genome-wide association study (GWAS) of NHL, Dr. Berndt and her colleagues discovered 27 independent loci associated with specific subtypes of NHL. She initiated a major expansion of the GWAS, doubling the number of cases from an earlier effort, making it possible to identify more risk loci, particularly in association with rarer subtypes.

In her work with several international consortia, Dr. Berndt and collaborators identified several genetic loci associated with prostate cancer risk. She is utilizing new genotyping technology to identify additional novel loci and to conduct fine-mapping analyses to identify variants for follow-up functional studies.

Dr. Berndt has been a leader of multiple genome-wide meta-analyses identifying hundreds of genetic variants associated with obesity, height, and other traits. These studies have made a substantial contribution to our understanding of the heritability and underlying genetic architecture of these phenotypes and how these traits influence cancer risk, initiation, progression, and survival.