Sarah Kerns is a postdoctoral fellow in genetic epidemiology. She is interested in combining population-based research with molecular biology and genetics to improve our understanding of the basis for disease and develop tools to improve population health.
The aim of her primary project is to identify predictors of response to radiation therapy among men treated for prostate cancer. This is being accomplished through a two-stage genome-wide association study among approximately 1,000 men treated with brachytherapy in New York, as well as additional validation cohorts from Spain and the Netherlands. Outcomes of interest include damage to surrounding normal tissues as well as prostate tissue response. The long-term goal of this project is to develop a clinically useful predictive model, incorporating genetic, clinical and demographic risk factors, which can be used to guide clinicians and patients in making treatment decisions such that optimal tumor control can be attained while minimizing adverse effects on long-term quality of life. With over 2 million prostate cancer survivors in the United States alone, a clinical tool that can improve the therapeutic index of radiation therapy could have a large impact on the long-term quality of life for many cancer survivors.
Sarah is also investigating the genetic basis of a familial disorder that was identified in a small community in Ecuador and is characterized by intrauterine growth retardation, severe short stature, and early onset diabetes mellitus. She is using a combination of methods including classical linkage analysis and autozygosity mapping, as well as new technology like whole-exome sequencing. An understanding of the genetic basis for this disorder could lead to a broader understanding of the molecular basis for these phenotypes as well as development of improved therapeutics.