By Kathleen O'Neil
Leslie Bernstein, Ph.D., has been appointed director of the Department of Cancer Etiology in the Division of Population Sciences.
An internationally recognized epidemiologist known for establishing the connection between exercise and reduced breast cancer risk, Bernstein will lead a research program that focuses on the genetic and environmental causes of cancer to identify new cancer prevention strategies.
She also will serve as a professor and dean for faculty development, assisting in career development and training for scientists in Beckman Research Institute and mentoring graduate students. She begins her appointment Sept. 17.
“Leslie Bernstein has made signficant contributions in many areas of cancer epidemiology, survivorship and risk reduction and will be instrumental in further strengthening City of Hope’s growing etiology research program,” said Theodore Krontiris, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president of medical and scientific affairs and director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center. “She will also play an important role for junior faculty as a mentor and role model.”
Bernstein joins City of Hope from the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California (USC), where she is professor of preventive medicine and holds the AFLAC Chair in Cancer Research. In addition to serving as program leader of the Women’s Cancers Program at the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, she also co-directs USC’s Center on Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer, a $54 million National Cancer Institute initiative to understand how increasing physical activity and reducing obesity can prevent cancer.
Since 1988, Bernstein has served as scientific director of the Los Angeles County Cancer Surveillance Program, a population-based cancer registry. She also is principal investigator of the California Teachers Study, a cohort of more than 130,000 public school teachers and administrators formed in 1995 to determine how breast and other cancers affect women.
Bernstein’s research interests include breast cancer, esophageal adenocarcinoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. One of her major interests has been determining the effects of physical activity on breast cancer risk and the likelihood of recovery in cancer patients, as well as identifying lifestyle factors that can be changed to reduce a person’s risk of cancer and improve their prognosis after a cancer diagnosis.
“City of Hope offers exciting opportunities for taking my research in new directions,” Bernstein said. “For instance, we hope to expand the California Teachers Study cohort studies of women’s cancers and our non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma studies to focus on cancer outcomes. I am looking forward to developing close collaborations with both the basic scientists and clinical researchers at City of Hope.”
Bernstein recently was named the 2007 winner of the Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in clinical breast cancer research by the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure. This award honors a clinical researcher whose lifetime achievements advance research concepts and clinical applications in breast cancer research, screening or treatment.
Bernstein has served on numerous National Institutes of Health grant review study sections and has chaired numerous prominent breast cancer research efforts. She also is the chair of the External Advisory Committee for Nurses Health Studies at Harvard Medical School and is a past president and current Executive Committee member of the Society for Epidemiologic Research.
“Leslie Bernstein is one of the most accomplished researchers in epidemiology today,” said Smita Bhatia, M.D., chair of the Division of Population Sciences. “Her research will help deepen our understanding of groups that have higher risks of cancer and allow us to develop interventions that reduce risk and improve outcomes.”
Bernstein earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics with highest honors from the University of California at Los Angeles. She received her master’s degree in gerontology and doctorate in biometry from USC.