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Meira Epplein

Professor in Population Health Sciences
Population Health Sciences
DUMC 2715, Durham, NC 27710
2424 Erwin Road, Suite 602, Durham, NC 27705

Overview


Meira Epplein is a cancer epidemiologist interested in modifiable risk factors in under-served populations. She is a Professor in Population Health Sciences and in Medicine, and currently serves as Co-Leader of the Cancer Risk, Detection, and Interception research program of the Duke Cancer Institute.  Previously, she was a tenured faculty member at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, after two years as a post-doctoral fellow with the Multiethnic Cohort Study at the University of Hawaii.  Prior to earning her PhD in epidemiology from the University of Washington, she completed an MA in international studies, and spent five years as a program officer for the Asian research think tank, the National Bureau of Asian Research.

Dr. Epplein’s research program is focused on the prevention of infection-associated cancers, and has specifically centered around the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, a spiral, gram-negative bacterium that infects approximately 50% of the world’s population, and is the leading carcinogenic infectious agent according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer.  Her research seeks to determine the most toxigenic forms of the bacteria so to identify the highest risk populations which can then be targeted for antibiotic therapy, which has been shown to be effective for risk reduction. At the same time, she is committed to furthering our understanding of the co-factors involved in both H. pylori-associated disease risk and benefit, as the bacteria has inhabited the stomachs of humans for over 100,000 years, and so very likely also confers certain biological advantages to its hosts.

She has been PI of four grants from the NIH focusing on a greater understanding of the diversity of Helicobacter pylori and host response to infection and the association with gastrointestinal cancers. Through this work she has established the importance of the understanding of H. pylori as a heterogeneous exposure, identifying bacteria-specific blood biomarkers of increased cancer risk, and finding that these biomarkers interact with other potentially modifiable factors such as diet and aspirin use, in their association with the development of gastric cancer. She has also found significant differences in H. pylori prevalence and antibody response by self-reported race within the US, and have begun local initiatives to understand the prevalence of H. pylori in the community and clinic and to move towards eradication trials for high-risk individuals.

Area of expertise: Epidemiology

Current Appointments & Affiliations


Professor in Population Health Sciences · 2023 - Present Population Health Sciences, Basic Science Departments
Professor in Medicine · 2023 - Present Medicine, Medical Oncology, Medicine
Member of the Duke Cancer Institute · 2017 - Present Duke Cancer Institute, Institutes and Centers

Education, Training & Certifications


University of Washington · 2007 Ph.D.
University of Washington · 2005 M.S.
University of Washington · 1997 M.A.