Mary Beth Terry, PhD
2012-2013 BCRF Project:
(made possible by generous support from Aveda)
Department of Epidemiology
Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health
New York, New York
Co-Investigator: Regina M. Santella, PhD
, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York
Drs. Santella and Terry have been studying the efficiency of repair of different types of DNA damage and have now demonstrated that deficiencies in two different repair pathways impact on breast cancer risk. Risk increases with the number of pathways in which women have deficient repair capacity. In addition to biomarkers of DNA repair, these researchers have been studying DNA methylation levels as a potential biomarker of breast cancer risk in high-risk families. They are able to investigate these same biomarkers in adult women and children to understand better when breast cancer susceptibility begins. Their latest work, which they are now following up on prospectively, suggests that selected markers of DNA methylation are different in sisters with breast cancer than in sisters without cancer as well as different in young girls from cancer families compared to young girls without cancer in their families.
Working with the Breast Cancer Family Registry, which was established by the National Cancer Institute in 1995 and now totals 55,000 women and men from 14,000 families, Drs. Santella and Terry will expand their studies to a nested case-control study within the New York site of the Breast Cancer Family Registry. They will continue to measure oxidative stress markers in the young girls with and without a family history of breast cancer. There are 100 participants in the study who developed breast cancer and they will be matched by age and ethnicity to 200 individuals in the study who did not develop breast cancer.
Also, as there have been no studies of blood cell miRNAs in breast cancer, Drs. Santella and Terry will carry out a pilot study in 20 cases who donated blood within one year prior to diagnosis and 20 age- and ethnicity-matched controls. RNA will be isolated from mononuclear cells and miRs sequenced using Illumina MiSeq technology.
Mid-year Progress: Drs. Santella and Terry have evaluated expression of a panel of DNA repair genes in blood cells from breast cancer cases and controls. Women with decreased expression of several repair genes were at increased risk of breast cancer. In addition to DNA repair, this team is also examining how other biomarkers including markers of DNA methylation and oxidative stress help predict risk within families. They are able to examine the same biomarkers across generations to specifically test whether biomarkers associated with cancer risk are elevated in girls from cancer families early in life. Ultimately, their work aims at improving risk prediction and modification.
Dr. Terry is an Associate Professor of Public Health. Dr. Terry is a cancer epidemiologist and has been involved in case-control studies of breast and colorectal cancer for over ten years. She is currently working on a New York cohort study to examine early life factors for breast cancer risk. Her research focuses on the study of intermediate markers in cancer including mammographic density and colorectal adenomas, gene-environmental interactions and cancer, and early life factors and breast cancer. She is an National Cancer Institute K07 recipient of a 5-year career development award studying early life factors and breast cancer risk and an American Cancer Society recipient of a 3-year grant to study alcohol metabolism, intake and breast cancer risk. She has several independent grants also focusing on early life factors and breast cancer risk including a large R01 grant and an idea award from the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research program. Dr. Terry has taught both introductory and advanced epidemiologic methods at Columbia. She is currently teaching Epidemiology III.
Dr. Terry is also part of the CURE program at the Columbia Presbyterian Cancer Center to help mentor minority students in cancer research. While completing her doctoral degree, she also taught epidemiology and health economics for 3 years at New York University's Wagner School. Dr. Terry has a Masters degree in economics and previously worked as an econometrician and program evaluator for a number of government-sponsored programs.