OB/GYN Epidemiology Center

OB/GYN Epidemiology Center Staff
  • Daniel W. Cramer, MD, ScD, Director
  • Karin B. Michels, ScD, PhD, Co-Director
  • Kathryn L. Terry, ScD
Mission Statement

The mission of the Center is to conduct epidemiologic research of high quality that will lead to improvement in women's health and to educate students and clinical faculty about epidemiologic methods that will broaden their training.   

Accomplishments

Together, the faculty of the OB/GYN Epidemiology Center submitted 35 grants. The Center continues to be active in teaching through its popular Reproductive Epidemiology Course offered at the Harvard School of Public Health and individual projects with faculty, fellows and residents including several supported by the Expanding the Boundaries initiative.

  • Dr. Cramer was awarded an NIH Grant entitled MUC1 and Cancer Immunity: Determinants and Predictive Significance. He also received a grant from the Department of Defense entitled Mumps Parotitis and Ovarian Cancer: Modern Significance of an Historic Association. Both studies will pursue research designed to test whether many risk factors for ovarian cancer may occur by affecting immunity related to the tumor protein MUC1. Together with his long-standing case-control study of ovarian cancer and his Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in ovarian cancer, funding for the next three years is in place to address the full range of prevention, early detection and treatment of ovarian cancer. He is completing, with pre- and post-doctoral students, analyses of ovarian cancer data related to ovulatory cycles and talc use, especially genetic modifiers of this association. Additional work on pathways through which Ginkgo may alter ovarian cancer research is being conducted.  
  • Dr. Michels was awarded two new NIH research grants from the National Cancer Institute, an R01 on Body Weight and Premenopausal Breast Cancer and an R21 on Epigenetics. Dr. Michels authored or co-authored 12 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals in the past year. She is collaborating with Dr. Thomas McElrath and Dr. Louise Wilkins-Haug on the newly established birth cohort in the Department and will develop laboratory expertise in epigenetics.  
  • Dr. Terry was awarded the Eleanor and Miles Shore 50th Anniversary Fellowship Program Scholars to evaluate how common genetic variation may influence ovarian cancer survival and the Liz Tilberis Scholars Award entitled Role of Telomere Length and Maintenance in Ovarian Cancer Risk.  
  • Dr. Bin Ye received a grant for translation research entitled Proteomic Signatures of Ginkgo on Ovarian Epithelial Cells of BRCA1/2 Carrier Women and Mice from the Starr Foundation to initiate alternative medicine research and aimed at using herbal Ginkgo biloba to prevent and treat the BRCA1/2 risk in women.
  • Together with pre- and post-doctoral students, Dr. Cramer is completing analyses of ovarian cancer data related to ovulatory cycles and talc use, especially genetic modifiers of this association. Additional work on pathways through which Ginkgo may alter ovarian cancer research is being conducted. 
  • Dr. Michels is currently focusing on analyses of body weight and premenopausal breast cancer, early life risk factors for female cancers and epigenetic control of gene expression in utero.
  • Dr. Terry is assisting Dr. Cramer in the analysis of the ovarian cancer genetics data. In addition, she is continuing her analyses on epidemiologic risk factors for uterine leiomyoma and an analysis of premenopausal weight change and breast cancer risk.
Overview of Publications

Over the course of this academic year, 22 manuscripts, chapters, and editorials were published by or with the assistance of faculty from the Center.

  • Dr. Cramer co-authored several papers with Center Investigators including Drs. Terry and Ye. He also was the senior author on a paper describing the construction of standard specimen sets to evaluate cancer biomarkers using the novel method of pooling disease cases. 
  • Among Dr. Michels’ publications were three articles published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Her paper on the lack of association between induced abortion and breast cancer attracted international media coverage. Dr. Michels also published a report summarizing the available evidence on the link between birth weight and breast cancer
  • Dr. Terry published several papers with Dr. Michels including a paper on the inverse association between ovulatory infertility and breast cancer risk published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. In addition, Dr. Terry coauthored a paper with Dr. Cramer that suggested the association between incessant ovulation and ovarian cancer may be due in part to immunity to MUC1.
Teaching and Mentorship
  • This year, Dr. Terry assumed leadership of the Epidemiologic Research in Obstetrics and Gynecology taught at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) with Drs. Cramer and Michels, which endeavors to present both clinical and epidemiologic issues relevant to Obstetric and Gynecologic issues.  
  • Dr. Michels continues to teach her popular Core Course in Quantitative Reasoning at the Harvard Faculty for Arts and Sciences entitled “Medical Detectives.”  She also teaches one of the popular Freshman Seminars at Harvard College entitled “You are what you eat.” Dr. Michels is again offering her course "Introduction to Epidemiology" offered at Harvard Extension School. 
  • Both Dr. Cramer and Michels are active in supervising graduate students at the Harvard Public Health with 4 under Dr. Michels and 2 under Dr. Cramer’s mentorship.     
  • Faculty continue to participate in hospital-based and other national seminars and conferences. 
Goals
  • Continue data analyses on the etiology and early detection of ovarian cancer, predictors of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) success, and risk factors for breast cancer including induced abortion, obesity, and menstrual cycle characteristics.
  • Dr. Michels is expanding her research focus to explore epigenetic changes and gene imprinting in utero  
  • Continue to assist faculty, fellows and residents and Harvard School of Public Health students with ongoing and new clinical/epidemiological studies. Expanding the Boundaries, a Departmental wide initiative, will support this goal.
  • The viability of the OB/GYN Epidemiology Center depends upon grant support and preparation of new and competing continuation applications is anticipated. 

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