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Dr. Nan earned her MD in Clinical Medicine from the College of Medicine of Yanbian University in China and her PhD in Preventive Medicine from the College of Medicine, Chungbuk National University in South Korea. After graduate school, she became a Research Fellow at the Human Genome Center, Institute of Medicine Science, Tokyo University in Japan. In 2007 she was named a Visiting Scientist in Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and in 2008 became a Research Fellow in Epidemiology at Channing Division of Network Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where in 2010 she became an Instructor. In 2012, she became an Assistant Professor in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine. In 2014, she joined the faculty as Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, Indiana University. Dr. Nan was also named the Director of the Epidemiology Consultation Core at Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, which was founded to promote population research and education in epidemiology.
Dr. Nan’s passion for research is translating science into populations as well as clinical practice, thereby enhancing public health and well-being of subsequent generations of youth and families. As a well-trained epidemiologist in China, South Korea, Japan and US, she has more than 25 years of experience in conducting epidemiologic studies of cancer and other chronic diseases in different population groups. In particular, she has extensive expertise in molecular epidemiologic studies of cancers, including colorectal and skin. Dr. Nan has published over 70 papers in peer-reviewed journals, many in high-profile journals. She has built a national and international reputation for her research. Other experts around the world have already recognized her exceptional knowledge and insights, as well as her scientific achievement. For example, Dr. Nan has been selected as the inaugural winner of the Junior Investigator Award by The International Aspirin Foundation. In addition, her work was deemed by the Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program at the National Cancer Institute to have the greatest potential scientific and public health impact. Her work was also selected for the Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Award in the 2016 Association for Clinical and Translational Science conference. Dr. Nan’s work was also mentioned as a successful example in the NIH Director’s Blog regarding “Precision Medicine” and was selected for news release in multiple avenues. Moreover, she has been invited to speak about her research at numerous regional, national, and international scientific meetings and has chaired sessions for national scientific societies. Dr. Nan has served as Ad Hoc Reviewer for over 40 peer-reviewed scientific journals, and Associate Editor for the journal Cancer Causes and Control, along with a number of national and international committees and grant review panels for the U.S. Department of Defense, the Italian Ministry of Health, the British Skin Foundation, UK Cancer Research, and the Singapore Government Ministry of Health. Because of her precision health research, Dr. Nan has played a fundamental role in the IU Grand Challenge, Precision Health Initiative, at our school.
Genetics-based colorectal cancer prevention by aspirin
Dr. Nan participated in several epidemiological investigations of the genetic interactions underlying the effects of aspirin intake on colorectal cancer risk. These large-scale, high-profile epidemiologic studies included a number of national and international population-based cohort studies. Dr. Nan’s work on aspirin and colorectal cancer strongly demonstrates her unwavering commitment to “Precision Medicine” research at the highest level. Among her recent first-author papers on the genetic modification of aspirin and colorectal cancer risk, one was published in JAMA [Association of aspirin and NSAID use with risk of colorectal cancer according to genetic variants. JAMA. 2015 Mar 17;313(11):1133-42] and another in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute [Aspirin use, 8q24 single nucleotide polymorphism rs6983267, and colorectal cancer according to CTNNB1 alterations. JNCI. 2013 Dec 18;105(24):1852-61]. These articles help explain why aspirin and other NSAIDs may prevent colorectal cancer in some people but not in others. These publications were accompanied by editorial commentary and the paper published in JAMA was commented on in NIH director Dr. Francis Collins’s blog regarding Precision Medicine.
Cutaneous melanoma risk factors in relation to the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers
Dr. Nan started her training at Harvard Medical School with skin cancer research projects. She has been involved in multiple skin cancer projects. Most recently, she developed an independent research area in which Dr. Nan investigated the associations between melanoma risk factors and the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers. She published two papers reporting these findings in Journal of American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD), the most highly rated peer-reviewed research journal in ISI’s dermatology category, as the senior/corresponding author.
Mitochondrial DNA copy number
Dr. Nan has developed mitochondrial DNA copy number (mtDNAcn) as a novel biomarker of oxidative stress. She determined that leukocyte mtDNAcn was inversely associated with current weight and BMI. These findings led her further investigations of the associations of mtDNAcn with diet, air pollution, social stress, as well as cancer risk and mortality. For example, Dr. Nan published an article titled, “Fruit and vegetable consumption, cigarette smoke, and leukocyte mitochondrial DNA copy number” in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), the top nutrition journal. Most importantly, Dr. Nan collaborated with a basic science lab in South Korea to validate their population-based findings using in vitro cell-based experiments. Dr. Nan has also examined the relationship between mtDNAcn and colorectal cancer risk and published the findings in Carcinogenesis. She will continue to contribute new findings in terms of lifestyle and health outcomes.
Dr. Nan plans to investigate mtDNAcn in relation to environmental factors and chronic diseases in global settings. Moreover, she devotes substantial efforts on the studies related to global health. For this purpose, Dr. Nan has established very broad international research collaborations on the specific research areas of colon cancer and skin cancer epidemiology, as well as on mtDNAcn. Dr. Nan led the project for education and mortality in the Asian Cohort Consortium and the manuscript was published in BMJ Open. In addition, she has actively engaged in the international Genetics and Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer Consortium. Moreover, Dr. Nan participated in the international Mc1R (key red hair and melanoma gene) Genetic Variation Consortium with multiple publications worldwide. She has collaborated with a top group in South Korea on the biological consequence of mtDNAcn variation. Dr. Nan published together with collaborators around the world.