Jennifer J. Hu, Ph.D.
Professor of Epidemiology & Public Health
Description of Research
Dr. Hu’s research areas include: (1) cancer molecular and genetic epidemiology, (2) genomics and epigenomics prediction models of cancer clinical outcomes, and (3) cancer health disparities with focus on DNA damage/repair and immune/inflammatory responses. Considerable evidence associates DNA damage/repair with human cancer risk, treatment response and survival. Dr. Hu’s laboratory has evaluated the application of several DNA-repair functional assays in human cancer risk assessment. Results show that DNA damage and repair play important roles in human carcinogenesis and progression. Multiple DNA repair pathways are required to maintain genome integrity, and many genes are involved in different repair pathways, genetic defects in multiple DNA repair genes have additive or multiplicative effects on repair functions and human cancer risk/progression. Therefore, genotypes and phenotypes in different repair pathways must be evaluated simultaneously in order to fully assess their impact on human cancer susceptibility and progression. In addition to cancer risk assessment, several recent studies on a number of DNA repair targets have produced proof-of-concept results showing that selective targeting of DNA repair enzymes has the potential to enhance and augment the currently used chemotherapeutic agents and radiation as well as overcoming drug resistance.
With the rapid improvement of high-throughput genotyping methods, it is possible to rapidly translate genetic susceptibility information into health behavior promotion; because genetically susceptible populations are more motivated to seek screening and intervention. A number of recent GWAS and candidate-pathway studies suggest that genetic variations contribute to human breast cancer risk, treatment response and normal tissue toxicity, and prognosis. Using head and neck cancer as the model system, her team evaluated genomic (somatic mutations) and epigenomic (methylation and microRNA) prediction models for survival. Her current research projects evaluate genomics prediction models of clinical outcomes and cancer health disparities. Using breast cancer as the model system, her team is evaluating DNA damage/repair pathways and immune/inflammatory responses in racial/ethnic disparities of radiotherapy-induced normal tissue adverse reactions, late effects, and survival. In summary, populations with inherited deficient DNA damage/repair response have higher risk of developing more aggressive tumor phenotype with somatic changes associated with therapeutic resistance. Thus, her research program aims to develop more accurate predictive models of more aggressive tumor phenotype and treatment response in identifying patients who will benefit from precision medicine with maximal efficacy and minimal site effects.
- Discovered deficient DNA repair and elevated DNA damage in human breast and prostate cancer risk.
- Developed innovative racial/ethnic specific polygenic models of DNA repair in human cancer risk and somatic TP53 mutations.
- Demonstrated functional implication of DNA repair genetic polymorphisms in human cancer risk and targeted therapies.
- Reported complex gene-gene and gene-environment interactions in human cancer risk.
- New evidence of susceptibility loci for breast cancer and ER-negative breast cancer in women of African ancestry from genome-wide association studies.
- Innovative molecular genomic prediction models of radiation therapy outcomes in breast cancer patients.
Selected Cancer-Related Publications
- Lewis JE, Soler-Vilá H, Clark PE, Kresty La, Allen GO, Hu JJ. Intake of plant foods and associated nutrients in prostate cancer risk. Nutr Cancer 61:216-24,2009. Read more »
- Xu J, Kibel AS, Hu JJ, Turner AR, Pruett K, Zheng SL, Sun J, Isaacs SD, Wiley KE, Kim ST, Hsu FC, Wu W, Torti FM, Walsh PC, Chang BL, Isaacs WB. Prostate cancer risk associated loci in African Americans. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 18:2145-9, 2009. Read more »
- Nieder AM, MacKinnon JA, Fleming LE, Kearney G, Hu JJ, Sherman RL, Huang Y, Lee DJ. Bladder cancer clusters in Florida: identifying populations at risk. J Urol 182:46-50; discussion 51, 2009. Read more »
- Zabaleta J, Su LJ, Lin HY, Sierra RA, Hall MC, Sartor AO, Clark PE, Hu JJ, Ochoa AC. Cytokine genetic polymorphisms and prostate cancer aggressiveness. Carcinogenesis 30:1358-62, 2009. Read more »