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Center for Environmental Genomics

The Center for Environmental Genomics is co-directed by Drs. Zuo-Feng Zhang and Robert Schiestl. The Center has been established and supported by a $1 million donation by the Ann Fitzpatrick Alper family, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Planning Program of Molecular Epidemiology and Gene-Environmental Interaction (NIH/NIEHS ES011667) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) T32 Training Program on Molecular Epidemiology of Cancer (NIH/NCI T32 CA09142).


The mission of the center is to bring together experts from a variety of fields, such as environmental health sciences, molecular toxicology, nutrition, and molecular epidemiology, to conduct multidisciplinary research and research training on issues related to environmental exposures and gene-environmental interaction on the risk of cancer and other diseases.

Scientific Goals

The major scientific goals of the Center are to evaluate mechanisms and effects of environmental carcinogens; to assess the role of genetic susceptibility; to study potential gene-environmental interactions on the development and progression of cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs); and eventually to apply the knowledge gained from studies of the molecular epidemiology and carcinogenesis to cancer etiology, early detection and screening, prevention and control research and practice.  


Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang with students

Faculty and Researchers in the center are from various scientific disciplines of the public health sciences (e.g., Molecular Epidemiology, Environmental Epidemiology, Reproductive Epidemiology, Organ and Development Toxicology, Environmental Health, Nutrition, Molecular Toxicology, Toxicology, Chemical Carcinogenesis, Biostatistics, Genetics), as well as basic and clinical sciences (Molecular Pathology, Molecular Biology, Clinical Sciences, Cancer Biomarkers).

The Center includes the whole spectrum of the research areas related to environmental genomics, molecular epidemiology and carcinogenesis for the translational approaches of bench sciences to human population in cancer etiology, early detection and diagnosis and prevention and control. The research includes, but is not limited to, descriptive epidemiological studies, population or hospital-based case-control studies, prospective cohort studies, intervention trials, development of exposure and risk assessment models, identification of molecular genetic markers for high risk population, early detection and diagnosis, and risk prediction.

The perspective of transdisciplinary cancer control research has been adopted since the establishment of the program.  High profile and quality of green tea research in cancer prevention has been carried out using high-tech proteomics by way of an active collaboration with investigators from Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Medicine, Urology, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Epidemiology.

The Center members in both molecular epidemiology, genetics, and carcinogenesis are usually working or collaborating with each other in the projects involving both human subjects and cell lines or animals. For example:

  • Drs. Wendie Robbins and Zuo-Feng Zhang in the molecular epidemiology area are working with Dr. Curtis Eckhert in dietary boron intake or occupational boron exposures and its effects on cancer development, as well as reproductive events.
  • Drs. Rao and Zhang are collaborating in studies of green tea and cancer in both human subjects and cell lines. 
  • Dr. Beate Ritz is collaborating with Dr. Schiestl in pesticides exposure and gene expression profiling in the development of prostate cancer.
  • Dr. Oto Martinez-Maza is working with Drs. Roger Detels and Zuo-Feng Zhang in the molecular epidemiology of lymphoma.
  • Dr. John Froines is working with Dr. Zhang in epidemiological studies of air pollution and lung cancer.

Majority of the Center members are involved in the NCI T32 UCLA Molecular Epidemiology of Cancer Training Program and the NIEHS Planning Program of Molecular Epidemiology and Gene-Environmental Interactions.



Center for Environmental Genomics in Action