Professor of Environmental Health Sciences
Director, Cancer Epidemiology Program,
Herbert Irving Cancer Center
New York, New York
Co-Investigator: Mary Beth Terry, PhD, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York
Drs. Santella and Terry previously determined that decreased ability to repair DNA damage is associated with breast cancer risk using technically difficult assays. They have now found that a much easier assay measuring blood cell DNA methylation in several DNA repair genes is able to demonstrate increased methylation associated with risk. In other studies, they found that an unaffected woman had lower levels of overall global white blood cell DNA methylation if she has three or more relatives with breast cancer compared to women in high risk families with only one relative. Ultimately, their work aims at improving risk prediction and modification by incorporating biomarker data into current risk models.
Drs. Santella and Terry previously determined that decreased ability to repair DNA damage is associated with breast cancer risk using technically difficult assays. They have now found that genetic variation (single nucleotide polymorphism) in several genes involved in DNA repair is associated with increased risk. In their studies in the young daughters from their group of high risk families and from average risk families, the researchers found that it might be possible to use saliva to analyze epigenetic changes associated with risk when blood is not available. Ultimately tis work aims at improving risk prediction and modification by incorporating biomarker data into current risk models.
Regina Santella is Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, and Director of the NIEHS (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences) Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan, of the Carcinogenesis Program and Biomarkers Core Facility of the Cancer Center and of the Jean Sindab African American Breast Cancer Project.
Dr. Santella's research involves the development of laboratory methods for the detection of human exposure to environmental and occupational carcinogens, and their use in molecular epidemiology studies to identify causative factors, susceptible populations, and preventive interventions. Her work has concentrated on the measurement of carcinogens bound to DNA with highly specific and sensitive immunoassays using monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies that her laboratory has developed.
Studies specifically related to breast cancer include measurement of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon-DNA adducts in lymphocytes of cases and controls in the Long Island Breast Cancer Study Project and the determination of polymorphisms in genes related to metabolism of estrogens and carcinogens, oxidative stress and DNA repair. Other studies are investigating DNA repair capacity using phenotyping assays. To date these studies have demonstrated elevated levels of DNA damage in women with cancer, and that DNA repair capacity is lower in women who develop cancer compared to healthy women.
Dr. Santella has a MS in Organic Chemistry from the University of Massachusetts and a PhD in Biochemistry from the City University of New York. She has served as a member of the Metabolic Pathology Study Section as well as ad hoc reviewer for the American Cancer Society and NIEHS. She is currently a Senior Editor of Cancer Research; Past Chairperson of the Molecular Epidemiology Working Group of the American Association for Cancer Research, and Chair of the Molecular Epidemiology Subcommittee of the Southwest Oncology Group.