Karl Kelsey, MD, MOH
Professor of Community Health
Work: +1 401-863-6420
Dr. Karl Kelsey, MD, MOH, is interested in the application of laboratory-based biomarkers in environmental disease, with experience in chronic disease epidemiology and tumor biology. The goals include a mechanistic understanding of individual susceptibility to exposure-related cancers. In addition, his laboratory is interested in tumor biology, investigating somatic alterations in tumor tissue. This work involves using an epidemiologic approach to characterize epigenetic and genetic alteration of genes in the causal pathway for malignancy.
BiographyDr. Karl Kelsey, MD, MOH, is Professor of Community Health and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Brown University. He is Director of the Center for Environmental Health and Technology, home to the Brown University Superfund Basic Research Program. Dr. Kelsey is interested in the application of laboratory-based biomarkers in environmental disease, with experience in chronic disease epidemiology and tumor biology. The goals of his work include a mechanistic understanding of individual susceptibility to exposure-related cancers. In addition, his laboratory is interested in tumor biology, investigating somatic alterations in tumor tissue from patients who have developed exposure-related cancers. This work involves using an epidemiologic approach to characterize epigenetic and genetic alteration of genes in the causal pathway for malignancy. Active work includes several studies of individual susceptibility to cancer. Dr. Kelsey's laboratory is investigating susceptibility to smoking-related lung cancer, studying multi-racial and ethnic populations. In addition, the laboratory is also studying inherited susceptibility to brain tumors and pancreatic cancer. Major case control studies that are ongoing in the laboratory include studies designed to understand inherited and acquired susceptibility in head and neck cancers. The laboratory is also involved in a case control study of asbestos-associated mesothelioma, and arsenic exposure, cigarette smoking and bladder cancer. Considerable work is being devoted to understanding the mechanisms of action of both asbestos and arsenic including their ability to effect promoter methylation and gene silencing in carcinogenesis. Recent work in the laboratory includes an interest in reproductive outcomes; Professor Kelsey has partnered with Dr. Stephen Buka (Epidemiology Division Head in the Department of Community Health) and Dr. Maureen Phipps (Director of the Brown University/Women & Infants Hospital National Center of Excellence in Women's Health) to initiate a Rhode Island birth cohort, now termed the Generations Project. Dr. Kelsey received his MD from the University of Minnesota and Masters of Occupational Health from Harvard University.
Research DescriptionKarl Kelsey, M.D., a new professor of community health, brings a unique set of skills to these questions. Kelsey is a molecular biologist who studies substances in blood or tissue that signal that cancer is present or progressing. Kelsey has identified several of these disease-flagging features, known as biomarkers, for breast, lung and other cancers.
But Kelsey doesn't stop in the lab. He takes the knowledge gained there and applies it to people, overseeing large studies that compare people with cancer to a very similar group of people without cancer. Then Kelsey and colleagues study the medical and lifestyle histories of people in each group to learn what factors may have caused them to get sick. His work has led to critical and sometimes surprising findings, such as the role human papilloma virus has in increasing risk for head and neck cancers.
Kelsey also studies how toxic substances behave in the body, influencing gene activity and forming tumors in ways that differ from tumors created by genetic defects. For example, on the cellular level, the lung cancer tumor of a smoker looks different from the lung cancer tumor of a nonsmoker.
"I like taking basic biology tools and knowledge and applying them to people," he said. "This combination of science and medicine suits me."
Grants and Awards1994 Council Fellow, Collegium Ramazzini
1982 Environmental Mutagen Society
1985 Radiation Research Society
1985 American Association for the Advancement of Science
1985 American Occupational and Environmental Medicine Association
1985 American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
1989 American Association for Cancer Research
1993Pres. Contributing Editor, American Journal of Industrial Medicine
2007Pres. Editorial Academy, International Journal of Oncology
Funded ResearchR01 CA078609 Kelsey (PI) 04/01/2006 03/31/2011
The Boston Collaborative Oral Cancer Study
The aim of the project is to investigate gene-environment interaction in oral cancer using a population-based case-control approach.
R01 CA121147 Kelsey (PI) 09/01/2007 02/28/2011
The Molecular Epidemiology of Bladder Cancer
This project investigates carcinogen-induced inactivation of tumor suppressor genes. It will specifically clarify the relationship of carcinogen exposure with epigenetic silencing of genes in the causal pathway for this disease.
R01 CA126939 Kelsey (PI) 05/17/2008 03/31/2013
The Epidemiology of Molecular Alterations in Mesothelioma
This project will study the molecular character of their tumors, proposing that the character of the lesions in the tumor is associated with the nature of their asbestos exposure and well as with their response to treatment.
R01 ES006717 Wiencke (PI) 02/01/2004-11/30/2009
Biomarkers of Lung Cancer Susceptibility in Minorities
To genotype African American and Hispanic lung cancer cases and controls for candidate gene polymorphisms that indicate possible gene-environmental interactions in lung cancer.
Role: Co-Principal Investigator