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Your Environment. Your Health.

Molecular & Genetic Epidemiology Group

Environmental Exposure & Carcinogenesis

Jack A. Taylor, M.D., Ph.D.
Jack Taylor, M.D., Ph.D.
Senior Investigator
Tel 984-287-3684
Fax 301-480-3290
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop A3-05
Durham, N.C. 27709

Research Summary

With dual appointments in the Epidemiology Branch and the Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology Laboratory, Jack A. Taylor, M.D., Ph.D., leads the Molecular & Genetic Epidemiology Group. The group, which works toward understanding the interaction between genes and environmental exposures in human carcinogenesis, has two main elements:

  • investigating the role of environmental exposure in critical target gene mutation
  • studying the role of genetic susceptibility and environmental exposure in cancer risk

Taylor’s research on critical target genes addresses the hypothesis that different environmental exposures cause different patterns of mutation in genes that are important in carcinogenesis. The initial focus has been on mutational activation of oncogenes and deactivation of tumor suppressor genes. Much of this work has been on lung and bladder cancer, two tumors types that have strong environmental determinants. Recent studies have focused on normal and preneoplastic tissue. This includes a study using fluorescent light bronchoscopy to identify and collect samples of normal, dysplastic, and neoplastic bronchial tissue from patients at high risk for lung cancer. Samples are being analyzed for a variety of molecular changes and specific lesions were followed over time with periodic biopsy. This work seeks to identify early molecular changes in normal lung epithelium following environmental exposures, and to identify mutations and other changes that may be prognostic markers. Such mutations can be used both to identify novel critical target genes and to suggest mechanisms by which an environmental agent causes cancer. If specific carcinogens produce characteristic patterns of gene mutation in tumors, the detection of those patterns would be a powerful tool in studies of environmental risk and for use in prevention and early diagnosis.

The research on genetic susceptibility tests the hypothesis that commonly inherited allelic variants of selected candidate genes, in conjunction with environmental exposures, affect a person's risk of developing cancer. This research has largely focused on cancers of the bladder, prostate and lung with efforts directed at genes involved in carcinogen metabolism. Current efforts are focused on polymorphisms in genes involved in DNA synthesis and repair and on the development of a functional assay for DNA repair that can be applied in population-based studies. Working with genetically susceptible subgroups may allow identification of the environmental exposures that cause disease and the true risks associated with exposure. It could also lead to the development of public health programs for protecting susceptible populations, and for targeted screening of groups at higher risk of disease.

Taylor received a B.A. from Carleton College, an M.D. from the University of Wisconsin and a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Taylor is licensed in North Carolina, and holds board certifications in Public Health and General Preventive Medicine. He holds Adjunct Professorships in the Department of Epidemiology, Department of Medicine and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as well as in the Department of Medicine at Duke University. He serves as Senior Researcher in the U.S. Public Health Service at NIEHS.


  • Bladder Cancer Study
  • Fried Meat Study
  • Haplotypes in Environmental Genome Project
  • LIFE and VALID Lung Studies
    ("/Rhythmyx/assembler/render?sys_contentid=35609&sys_revision=1&sys_variantid=639&sys_context=0&sys_authtype=0&sys_siteid=&sys_folderid=" sys_dependentvariantid="639" sys_dependentid="35609" inlinetype="rxhyperlink" rxinlineslot="103" sys_dependentid="35609" sys_siteid="" sys_folderid="")The LIFE study's objective is to evaluate the effectiveness of Lung Imaging Fluorescence Endoscopy (LIFE) in detecting and following early lung lesions in patients at high risk for developing lung cancer. The VALID study, a companion to the LIFE study, evaluates the effect of initial arterial ligation versus venous ligation during surgery on the risk of distant metastases in lung cancer patients.
  • Prostate Cancer Consortium


  • mPopTag
    ("/Rhythmyx/assembler/render?sys_contentid=35063&sys_revision=6&sys_variantid=639&sys_context=0&sys_authtype=0&sys_siteid=&sys_folderid=" sys_dependentvariantid="639" sys_dependentid="35063" inlinetype="rxhyperlink" rxinlineslot="103" sys_dependentid="35063" sys_siteid="" sys_folderid="")A tool used to select or evaluate linkage disequilibrium tag SNPs for multiple populations.
  • SNP Selection and Functional Information
  • TAGster ("/Rhythmyx/assembler/render?sys_contentid=35267&sys_revision=3&sys_variantid=639&sys_context=0&sys_authtype=0&sys_siteid=&sys_folderid=" sys_dependentvariantid="639" sys_dependentid="35267" inlinetype="rxhyperlink" rxinlineslot="103" sys_dependentid="35267" sys_siteid="" sys_folderid="")
    A tool to select, evaluate and visualize LD tag SNPs for single or multiple populations.
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