Jennifer A Doherty
Assistant Professor of Epidemiology
Assistant Professor of Community and Family Medicine
University of Washington School of Public Health, Ph.D 2002
Norris Cotton Cancer Center
Program in Experimental and Molecular Medicine
Quantitative Biomedical Sciences
One Medical Center Drive
Rubin Building, Room 853
Lebanon NH 03756
Office: 853 Rubin
The Doherty Cancer Epidemiology Laboratory focuses on the molecular and genetic epidemiology of ovarian and lung cancers. Ovarian cancer is challenging to study for a number of reasons. It is a rare disease and therefore screening tests require nearly perfect sensitivity and specificity to be effective, and it is typically diagnosed at a late stage, with poor survival. Also, accumulating evidence has led to the understanding that ovarian cancer is not a single disease; rather, it is thought that the various ovarian cancer histologic types and high grade serous (HGSC) molecular subtypes may have different etiologies. Furthermore, almost all research of the molecular epidemiology of ovarian cancer to date has been in women of European ancestry. Therefore, my ovarian cancer research program concentrates on three main areas: 1. To elucidate similarities and differences in epidemiologic and genetic risk factors and survival across the histologies and HGSC subtypes of ovarian cancer, with the goal of understanding the underlying causes of each so that preventive measures can be developed; 2. To identify candidate genes and pathways that drive the development of each of the subtypes so that targeted treatments can be developed; and 3. To characterize epidemiologic and molecular features of ovarian cancer in diverse populations to aid in developing regionally appropriate care.
Lung cancer is responsible for more deaths than prostate, breast and colon cancers combined. While smoking cessation is a key means to reduce the incidence of lung cancer, former smokers remain at high risk for many years after quitting. Low dose CT scan screening of high-risk individuals holds promise to reduce lung cancer mortality, but the false positive rate even among this high-risk group remains quite high. My work focuses on identifying factors that differentiate between individuals with a heavy smoking history who will, and who will not, eventually develop lung cancer, with the goal of incorporating these factors into models for risk stratification for lung cancer screening regimens, and reducing false positives.
One marker that may hold promise as a susceptibility factor for lung cancer (and other cancers) is peripheral blood telomere length. Telomeres cap chromosome ends and protect cells from genomic instability. Telomere length varies by cell type and by chromosome arm within a cell. Peripheral blood telomere length has been associated with numerous cancer types; both shorter and longer telomere length has been reported to be associated with increased risk, with some studies observing U-shaped associations. As well, the genomic region including TERT, which encodes telomerase, the enzyme that maintains telomeres, is a susceptibility locus for a number of different types of cancer, with some SNPs conferring an increased risk of some cancer types, and a decreased risk of others. I am prospectively examining associations between global and chromosome arm-specific telomere length, variation in telomere structure and maintenance genes, and lung cancer risk and survival (R01 CA151989, PI JA Doherty). Additionally, through a collaboration with the Transdisciplinary Research in Cancer of the Lung (TRICL) U19 consortium, I am examining associations between thousands of SNPs in telomere structure and maintenance genes and lung cancer risk in many thousands of lung cancer cases and controls. As co-chair of the GAME-ON TERT-CLPTM1L working group, I lead a large-scale collaboration to thoroughly characterize SNP associations in telomere structure and maintenance genes across ten different cancer types in over 60,000 cancer cases and 99,000 controls (funded by an administrative supplement to R01 CA151989 (PI JA Doherty))
Rotations and Thesis Projects:
Rotations and thesis projects relating to the above research interests are available in the Doherty lab.
“Telomeres and lung cancer incidence and survival” (NIH/NCI R01CA151989, PI JA Doherty)
“SNP associations in telomere structure and maintenance genes across ten different cancer types” (NIH/NCI R01CA151989, Supplement, PI JA Doherty)
“Epidemiologic factors and survival by molecular subtypes of ovarian cancer” (NIH/NCI R01CA168758, MPI JA Doherty, MA Rossing)
“A comparative transcriptome approach to elucidate drivers of carcinogenesis in ovarian cancer subtypes” (NCCC, MPI JA Doherty, C Greene)
“Telomere length and chromosomal instability across various tissue types” (NIH/NHGRI U01 HG007601, PI B Pierce)
Foundations of Epidemiology II: Advanced Epidemiologic Methods (QBS 131), Quantitative Biomedical Sciences PhD Program (Course Director)
Dr. Doherty received a BS in Biology from Cornell University in 1990, an MS in Epidemiology from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1996, and a PhD in Epidemiology from the University of Washington in 2002. After her post-doctoral fellowship, she joined the faculty at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Dr. Doherty has been an Assistant Professor at the Geisel School of Medicine since 2012.
Dr. Doherty is the primary mentor for PhD candidate James Rudd, who was awarded an F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA Individual Fellowship grant under her sponsorship, and post-doctoral fellow Sara Karami, who comes to us from the National Cancer Institute Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics with over 30 publications.