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A cross-divisional department spanning

Research Areas

Carcinogens and Cancer


Critical environmental exposures contribute to chronic disease across the life span, especially in economically developing regions of the world. Chronic diseases and conditions—such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and arthritis—are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems. An important part of our work in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering focuses on the translation of mechanistic research to public health based prevention strategies.

Research Highlight

Detoxification of Air Pollutants in Humans with a Broccoli Supplement

Air pollution has recently been declared a Group 1 human carcinogen by IARC. It is well documented that exposures are very high in Asian megacities, including those in China. Our studies in the Yangtze River Basin region (Qidong) have revealed high internal dose levels of a spectrum of airborne toxicants, presumably reflecting the surge in economic development without concomitant attention to regional environmental protection. Reductions in exposures to airborne toxicants require substantive economic and political investments, driven by national and global mandates, which is a major challenge for public health.

To address this problem comprehensively, in addition to the engineering solutions to reduce regional pollution emissions, we need to translate our basic science into strategies to protect individuals from these exposures. This study supports the development of food-based strategies as part of this overall prevention effort. John Groopman

Ongoing translational clinical trials involving residents in one of China's regions having greater air pollution impact have revealed that daily consumption of a half cup of broccoli sprout beverage produced rapid, significant and sustained higher levels of detoxication products  of benzene, a known human carcinogen, and acrolein, a lung irritant.

Environmental Carcinogens

Learn how our researchers are confronting cancer

environmental carcinogen

Associated Faculty

Shyam Biswal, PhD

Biswal's lab focuses on therapeutic resistance of cancer due to a gain-of-function mutation in transcription factor Nrf2. Using patient-derived xenografts in humanized immunocompetent mice and GEM models, they aim to understand the mechanisms of oncogenic cooperation and metabolic adaptation in cancer cells.


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Joseph Bressler, PhD*

Bressler's laboratory has been identifying transporters that mediate the uptake of toxicants through the intestine and into the brain, and are examining the effect of toxicants on the regulation of apoptosis.


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John Groopman, PhD*

Groopman's research involves the development and application of molecular biomarkers of exposure, dose, and effect from environmental carcinogens. The environmental carcinogens studied include agents that are naturally occurring in the diet as well as those produced as a result of cooking practices. A major emphasis of the research has been in the elucidation of the role of aflatoxins, a common contaminate of the food supply, in the induction of liver cancer in high-risk populations living in Asia and Africa.


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Paul Locke, JD, DrPH

Locke’s research and practice target the intersection of environmental health sciences, policy and law in the areas of radiation policy and law and toxicity testing. His areas of study include alternatives to animals in biomedical testing and toxicology, radon risk science and policy, radiation risk analysis, uranium mining, high-level radioactive waste disposal and the application of low dose radiobiology to policy making.


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Keeve Nachman, PhD*

Nachman's research interests include the public health and environmental consequences of industrial food animal and crop production; chemical and microbial food safety; risk assessment and communication; regulatory approaches to synthesis of scientific evidence in decision-making; and transparency in federal rulemaking.


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Fenna Sillé, PhD*

The focus of Dr. Sillé's research is understanding the effects of environmental exposures on the development and function of our immune system. Her major research directions are:

1. Understanding the long-term effects of early-life arsenic exposures on immunity and (infectious) disease risk. - Currently studying the interaction between arsenic and tuberculosis,

2. Establishing an integrated platform for immunotoxicity testing of early-life chemical exposures,

3. Investigating the effects early-life exposures on immunological memory and vaccine efficacy.


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Zhibin Wang, PhD*

The long-term goal of the Wang laboratory is to determine how epigenetic codes, including patterns of DNA methylation and combinatorial patterns of simultaneously occuring histone modifications, are established and how this establishment goes awry upon environmental stimuli, thus contributing to human diseases (such as cancers and autoimmune diseases).


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*Denotes faculty who are accepting PhD students.