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Understanding the Molecular Epidemiology and Etiology of Cancer

The Chen Lab's goal is to understand the molecular epidemiology and etiology of certain cancers. Through molecular data from variations in SNPs and copy number, gene expression profiles, and tissue microarray data, we hope to determine the links between genetic and environmental factors and the development of and/or survival from tobacco- and hormone-related cancers.

Current studies include:

Oral Cancer: Molecular Profiles and Clinical Outcomes (Oralchip)
Oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) is associated with considerable mortality and morbidity. We are conducting a hospital-based clinical study to discover biomarkers that may improve diagnosis and prognosis of oral cancer. Our ultimate goals are to address the following clinically important questions.

What determines which OSCC patients go on to develop local recurrence and/or second primary tumors, so that more aggressive medical treatment and/or surveillance can be offered selectively to these patients?

How can we identify those clinically node-negative OSCC patients who harbor occult nodal metastasis, patients who should undergo neck dissection while those without can be spared unnecessary surgery?

To what degree can molecular markers improve upon the prediction of survival based on the current staging system so that physicians can better individualize patients’ treatments?

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Genome-wide Association Study of Endometrial Cancer (E2C2 GWAS)
Endometrial cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the United States. This study includes five cohorts from the NCI Cohort Consortium and six case-control studies that have collected biospecimens and agreed to collaborate within the NCI Epidemiology of Endometrial Cancer Consortium, by far the largest international collaborative study of this cancer. It will evaluate the association between the risk of Type I and Type II endometrial cancer and single nucleotide polymorphisms on the genome-wide level as well as the impact of gene and environment interaction on endometrial cancer risk. The overall goal is to determine whether certain genotypes are predictive of future endometrial cancer risk, and whether the genotypes interact with established endometrial risk factors.

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Molecular Epidemiology of Lung Cancer
Smoking is the biggest cause of lung cancer, which is the most common fatal cancer worldwide. However, most people who smoke do not develop lung cancer. Our goal is to figure out if certain people develop lung cancer because of a lower ability to repair DNA damage from smoking in their lungs. We are also exploring how this could be related to other risk factors for lung cancer, such as how often or how intensely somebody smokes, or by whether they eat a diet that has antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.

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International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology Consortium (INHANCE)
Dr. Chen is a member of the INHANCE Consortium, which was established in 2004 and is comprised of groups performing large molecular epidemiology studies of head and neck cancer. Through collaborations with investigators throughout the world, this group hopes to address the role of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and their interactions with environmental factors, the etiology in rare subgroups of individuals (including young age at onset, nonsmokers and nondrinkers), and the effects of human papillomavirus (HPV) with respect to cancer subsite.

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International Lung and Cancer Consortium (ILCCO)
Established in 2004, ILCCO is an international group of lung cancer researchers formed in order to share data from case-control and cohort studies from around the world. The overall objectives are to achieve greater power (particularly in regards to subgroup analyses), reduce duplication of research effort, replicate novel findings and achieve cost savings through large-scale, worldwide collaborative efforts.

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