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Carmen J Marsit, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Pharmacology & Toxicology
Associate Professor of Community and Family Medicine

Pharmacology & Toxicology
Community and Family Medicine

Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, Ph.D. 2004

Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine


Contact Information:

HB 7650
Pharmacology & Toxicology
Hanover NH 03755

Office: Remsen 520
Phone: 603-650-1825
Fax: 603-650-1129
Email: Carmen.J.Marsit@Dartmouth.edu

Professional Interests:

The broad goal of Dr. Marsitís research program is to investigate gene environment interactions and their individual and combined impact on human disease, with a particular focus on the impact of the environment on epigenetic regulation of the genome. The laboratory studies alterations to epigenetic marks, which may be responsible, in a significant part, for cancer, adverse pregnancy outcomes, and common and rare diseases of childhood including behavioral disorders. This work is accomplished by taking a novel interdisciplinary approach to understanding the pathogenesis of human disease, utilizing the power of epidemiology and population-based research to study the effects of the environment on multiple facets of epigenetic regulation while examining mechanistic questions in controlled in-vitro experiments. The focus of Dr. Marsitís research has been on two distinct, yet highly related biologic processes, that of environmental carcinogenesis and that of human development. In those settings, his laboratory examines DNA methylation and miRNA expression as key epigenetic mechanisms of interest.
This research aims to provide a sound scientific basis for this emerging paradigm that is taking shape on the heels of the realization that there are fetal origins to many adult diseases.

Studies in the laboratory are aimed at identifying novel biomarkers of cancer risk and prognosis through the examination of epigenetic alterations. The laboratory uses genome-scale tools to examine DNA methylation and miRNA expression in human clinical samples, and through careful analysis, to identify novel markers, which we can then translate into clinical use.

Other studies examine the hypothesis that the intrauterine environment experienced by a developing fetus can influence the epigenome of the infantís placenta. This functional alteration of the placenta can thereby program the health of the infant both at birth and likely well beyond. Some of the earliest phenotypes which can be examined to test this hypothesis are those of neurobehavioral development. Through collaborations at Women and Infant Hospital of Rhode Island, the Childrenís Environmental Health and Disease Prevention Center at Dartmouth, and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Dr. Marsit and his laboratory are profiling the placental epigenome and identifying relationships between epigenetic mechanisms at work in the placenta and the infantís newborn neurobehavior.

Paramount to meeting the objectives of this research program is creating a collaborative and multidisciplinary team of students, clinicians, epidemiologists, biologists, and statisticians who, by working together, are committed to combining efforts to reach these goals. Such a combined effort and interdisciplinary training is absolutely necessary to accomplish this work, and will certainly open up entirely new avenues for research both here at Dartmouth and beyond.

Rotations and Thesis Projects:

1. Examine how the intrauterine environment during pregnancy alters DNA methylation in infant placenta and cord blood and the downstream consequences of these alterations
2. Identify and expand on novel epigenetic biomarkers for cancer risk and prognosis in bladder and skin cancers.
3. Examine miRNA profiles in infant placenta, their association with environmental exposures, and their functional consequences in placental cells.

Grant Information:

Epigenetics in Neurodevelopment and Mental Health (NIH/NIMH)


Dr. Marsit received his B.S. from Lafayette College in Biochemistry in 2000, and his Ph.D. from the Program in Biological Sciences in Public Health at Harvard University in 2004. He trained as postdoctoral research associate in molecular epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. In 2007, he was appointed as Assistant Professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, at Brown University. He joined the faculty at Dartmouth in 2011, as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Toxicology and Community and Family Medicine in the Section of Biostatistics and Epidemiology.

Selected Publications:


  • Avissar M, Christensen BC, Kelsey KT, Marsit CJ. MicroRNA expression ratio is predictive of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Clin Cancer Res. 2009 Apr 15;15(8):2850-5. (view details on MedLine)

  • Wilhelm CS, Kelsey KT, Butler R, Plaza S, Gagne L, Zens MS, Andrew AS, Morris S, Nelson HH, Schned AR, Karagas MR, Marsit CJ. Implications of LINE1 methylation for bladder cancer risk in women. Clin Cancer Res. 2010 Mar 1;16(5):1682-9. (view details on MedLine)

  • Marsit CJ, Koestler DC, Christensen BC, Karagas MR, Houseman EA, Kelsey KT. DNA methylation array analysis identifies profiles of blood-derived DNA methylation associated with bladder cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2011 Mar 20;29(9):1133-9. (view details on MedLine)

  • Maccani MA, Padbury JF, Marsit CJ. miR-16 and miR-21 expression in the placenta is associated with fetal growth. PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e21210. (view details on MedLine)

  • Marsit CJ, Lambertini L, Maccani M, Koestler DC, Houseman EA, Gagne L, Padbury JF, Lester BM, Chen J. Placenta Imprinted Gene Expression Association of Infant Neurobehavior. J Pediatr. 2012 May;160(5):854-860.e2. (view details on MedLine)

  • Nelson HH, Marsit CJ, Kelsey KT. Global methylation in exposure biology and translational medical science. Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Nov;119(11):1528-33. (view details on MedLine)

  • Wilhelm-Benartzi CS, Houseman EA, Maccani MA, Poage GM, Koestler DC, Langevin SM, Gagne LA, Banister CE, Padbury JF, Marsit CJ. In utero exposures, infant growth, and DNA methylation of repetitive elements and developmentally related genes in human placenta. Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Feb;120(2):296-302. (view details on MedLine)

  • Lesseur C, Gilbert-Diamond D, Andrew AS, Ekstrom RM, Li Z, Kelsey KT, Marsit CJ, Karagas MR. A case-control study of polymorphisms in xenobiotic and arsenic metabolism genes and arsenic-related bladder cancer in New Hampshire. Toxicol Lett. 2012 Apr 5;210(1):100-6. (view details on MedLine)

  • Marsit CJ, Maccani MA, Padbury JF, Lester BM. Placental 11-beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase methylation is associated with newborn growth and a measure of neurobehavioral outcome. PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33794. (view details on MedLine)

  • Bromer C, Marsit CJ, Armstrong DA, Padbury JF, Lester B. Genetic and epigenetic variation of the glucocorticoid receptor (NR3C1) in placenta and infant neurobehavior. Dev Psychobiol. 2012 Jun 19. doi: 10.1002/dev.21061 (view details on MedLine)