Dr. Ite Laird-Offringa Gives Lecture about Epigenetics and Lung Cancer Research

The SCEHSC sponsors monthly lectures featuring researchers from USC and other universities that relate to Environmental Health research. On Friday, October 3, Dr. Ite Laird-Offringa, of USC Norris Cancer Center visited the SCEHSC to lecture on “The Promise of Epigenomics to Dissect Human Tissue Function in Health and Disease.”

Dr. Laird-Offringa and her team of researchers are studying the role of DNA methylation and other epigenetic events in the development and progression of lung cancer. During her lecture, Dr. Laird-Offringa pointed out that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the United states and world wide, and that the American Cancer Society estimates that 27% of all cancer deaths in the USA in 2014 will be from lung cancer. The long term objective of Dr. Laird’s research is to better understand the epigenetic control of cellular development in both cancerous and normal lung cells and to provide information that will enable lung cancer to be diagnosed earlier and therefore treated sooner. In the majority of instances, lung cancer is diagnosed too late along the continuum of the disease, resulting in high mortality rates.

Several faculty members commented on Dr. Laird-Offringa’s line of research. Dr. Carrie Breton, an assistant professor in the EH Division, explained, “While Dr. Laird’s approach has focused on understanding differences in epigenomic regulation in lung cancer, these same tools are of interest to researchers in Environmental Health. Environmental exposures may cause alterations to the epigenome that then affect downstream health outcomes of interest.”

Professor Ed Avol, organizer of the Center seminar series, noted, “One of the research areas of Center investigators is cancer and the importance of environmental exposures in cancer development. Lung cancer, and the obvious association with respiratory health, provides an ideal opportunity to see how our Center can gain new perspectives from other investigators that might re-frame our research directions.”

In addition giving a lecture, Dr. Laird-Offringa, spent time meeting with EH Division faculty members and researchers. Division research associates who are involved in the SCEHSC Career Development program had dedicated time to dialogue with Dr. Laird-Offringa about her experiences in the field, her career trajectory, and what has brought her the most challenge and reward over the course of her career. Among others she advised postdoctoral fellows to keep an active eye on their publication records: “Not every paper has to be a Cell, Science, or Nature paper; when your findings are only moderately interesting but solidly executed, consider publishing them to create a body of work you can build upon”.

LEARN MORE: For a basic explanation of Epigenetics, check out this short video: Engaging Epigenetics: A Tool for Stakeholder Education

Upcoming SCEHSC sponsored lectures include:

November 7:
“Outcome-based Design of Instruments for Measuring Exposures to Fine and Ultrafine Particles”
Dr. Richard Flagan, McCollum/Corcoran Professor, Depts of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, California Institute of Technology.
2001 N. Soto Street , Los Angeles, CA 90032, SSB 116

December 5:
Dr. W. James Gauderman, Director – Division Of Biostatistics, Dept of Preventive Medicine, USC
(Time and Location are the same as above)