Our Faculty

Brandon L. Pierce, PhD

Our group works at the intersection of genetic, molecular, and environmental epidemiology. We are interested in how genetic variation influences or alters the effects of environmental exposures and biomarkers on human health and biology. Areas of ongoing research include (1) dynamic features of the genome that are biomarkers of aging, exposure, and disease risk, (2) genetic susceptibility and response to exposure to arsenic, a known carcinogen (3) methods for assessing causal relationships among risk factors, biomarkers, and disease phenotypes, and (4) genetic contributors to prostate cancer disparities. The long-term goals of our work are to understand toxicity mechanisms and disease biology and to improve our ability to predict disease and target interventions to high-risk sub-populations.



Several ongoing projects are described below:



• Arsenic and the Human Genome: Susceptibility and response to exposure: Over 100 million people worldwide consume arsenic-contaminated drinking water, which increases risk for a wide array of health conditions, including cancer. The goal of this project is to identify features of the human genome, both inherited (i.e., SNPs) and acquired/dynamic (i.e., telomere length, DNA methylation, somatic mutations), that reflect susceptibility to arsenic toxicity or response to arsenic exposure, using data from a large arsenic-exposed Bangladeshi cohort. Achieving these goals will reveal biological mechanisms of toxicity and susceptibility and provide strategies for identifying high risk individuals.



• Genetics of Arsenic Metabolism: fine mapping and analysis of rare variants: Susceptibility to arsenic toxicity is partially determined by genetic variants on chromosome 10 which influence individuals’ ability to metabolize arsenic. Dr. Pierce directs a project that will comprehensively characterize the effects of these variants across three arsenic-exposed population groups (Bangladeshis, American Indians, and European Americans).



• Telomere Length and Chromosomal Instability Across Various Tissue Types: Age-related telomere shortening may play a critical role in susceptibility to common age-related diseases, including cancer. Using tissue samples from the NHGRI’s Gene-Tissue Expression project (GTEx), Dr. Pierce’s team is assessing correlations among telomere length measurements taken across many cancer-prone tissues and determining if telomere length is correlated with DNA damage, aging-related DNA methylation features, as well as inherited genetic variation.



• Identifying DNA Methylation Features That Underlie Prostate Cancer Disparities: In light of racial disparities in prostate cancer incidence and mortality in the U.S., Dr. Pierce is leading a project to determine if DNA methylation patterns in prostate tissue differ between African American and Caucasian patients and how such differences are related to clinical features, as well as genetic and environmental factors. This work will contribute to the identification ethnicity-specific biomarkers for prostate cancer aggressiveness.

University of Washington
Seattle
PhD - Public Health Genetics
2008

Washington University School of Medicine
St. Louis
MS - Genetic Epidemiology
2004

Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis
BA - Biology
2002

Genetically Increased Telomere Length and Aging-related Traits in the UK Biobank.
Demanelis K, Tong L, Pierce BL. Genetically Increased Telomere Length and Aging-related Traits in the UK Biobank. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2019 Oct 11.
PMID: 31603979

Circulating vitamin D concentrations and risk of breast and prostate cancer: a Mendelian randomization study.
Jiang X, Dimou NL, Al-Dabhani K, Lewis SJ, Martin RM, Haycock PC, Gunter MJ, Key TJ, Eeles RA, Muir K, Neal D, Giles GG, Giovannucci EL, Stampfer M, Pierce BL, Schildkraut JM, Warren Andersen S, Thompson D, Zheng W, Kraft P, Tsilidis KK. Circulating vitamin D concentrations and risk of breast and prostate cancer: a Mendelian randomization study. Int J Epidemiol. 2019 10 01; 48(5):1416-1424.
PMID: 30597039

The effect of age on DNA methylation in whole blood among Bangladeshi men and women.
Jansen RJ, Tong L, Argos M, Jasmine F, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Sarwar G, Islam MT, Shahriar H, Islam T, Rahman M, Yunus M, Kibriya MG, Baron JA, Ahsan H, Pierce BL. The effect of age on DNA methylation in whole blood among Bangladeshi men and women. BMC Genomics. 2019 Sep 10; 20(1):704.
PMID: 31506065

Association of Arsenic Exposure with Whole Blood DNA Methylation: An Epigenome-Wide Study of Bangladeshi Adults.
Demanelis K, Argos M, Tong L, Shinkle J, Sabarinathan M, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Sarwar G, Shahriar H, Islam T, Rahman M, Yunus M, Graziano JH, Broberg K, Engström K, Jasmine F, Ahsan H, Pierce BL. Association of Arsenic Exposure with Whole Blood DNA Methylation: An Epigenome-Wide Study of Bangladeshi Adults. Environ Health Perspect. 2019 05; 127(5):57011.
PMID: 31135185

Correction: A missense variant in FTCD is associated with arsenic metabolism and toxicity phenotypes in Bangladesh.
Pierce BL, Tong L, Dean S, Argos M, Jasmine F, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Sarwar G, Islam MT, Shahriar H, Islam T, Rahman M, Yunus M, Lynch VJ, Oglesbee D, Graziano JH, Kibriya MG, Gamble MV, Ahsan H. Correction: A missense variant in FTCD is associated with arsenic metabolism and toxicity phenotypes in Bangladesh. PLoS Genet. 2019 May; 15(5):e1008172.
PMID: 31107898

A missense variant in FTCD is associated with arsenic metabolism and toxicity phenotypes in Bangladesh.
Pierce BL, Tong L, Dean S, Argos M, Jasmine F, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Sarwar G, Islam MT, Shahriar H, Islam T, Rahman M, Yunus M, Lynch VJ, Oglesbee D, Graziano JH, Kibriya MG, Gamble MV, Ahsan H. A missense variant in FTCD is associated with arsenic metabolism and toxicity phenotypes in Bangladesh. PLoS Genet. 2019 03; 15(3):e1007984.
PMID: 30893314

Circulating vitamin D concentrations and risk of breast and prostate cancer: a Mendelian randomization study.
Jiang X, Dimou NL, Al-Dabhani K, Lewis SJ, Martin RM, Haycock PC, Gunter MJ, Key TJ, Eeles RA, Muir K, Neal D, Giles GG, Giovannucci EL, Stampfer M, Pierce BL, Schildkraut JM, Warren Andersen S, Thompson D, Zheng W, Kraft P, Tsilidis KK. Circulating vitamin D concentrations and risk of breast and prostate cancer: a Mendelian randomization study. Int J Epidemiol. 2018 Dec 28.
PMID: 30597039

The contribution of parent-to-offspring transmission of telomeres to the heritability of telomere length in humans.
Delgado DA, Zhang C, Gleason K, Demanelis K, Chen LS, Gao J, Roy S, Shinkle J, Sabarinathan M, Argos M, Tong L, Ahmed A, Islam T, Rakibuz-Zaman M, Sarwar G, Shahriar H, Rahman M, Yunus M, Doherty JA, Jasmine F, Kibriya MG, Ahsan H, Pierce BL. The contribution of parent-to-offspring transmission of telomeres to the heritability of telomere length in humans. Hum Genet. 2019 Jan; 138(1):49-60.
PMID: 30536049

Urinary metals and leukocyte telomere length in American Indian communities: The Strong Heart and the Strong Heart Family Study.
Grau-Perez M, Zhao J, Pierce B, Francesconi KA, Goessler W, Zhu Y, An Q, Umans J, Best L, Cole SA, Navas-Acien A, Tellez-Plaza M. Urinary metals and leukocyte telomere length in American Indian communities: The Strong Heart and the Strong Heart Family Study. Environ Pollut. 2019 Mar; 246:311-318.
PMID: 30557805

Elevation of Stromal-Derived Mediators of Inflammation Promote Prostate Cancer Progression in African-American Men.
Gillard M, Javier R, Ji Y, Zheng SL, Xu J, Brendler CB, Crawford SE, Pierce BL, Griend DJV, Franco OE. Elevation of Stromal-Derived Mediators of Inflammation Promote Prostate Cancer Progression in African-American Men. Cancer Res. 2018 11 01; 78(21):6134-6145.
PMID: 30181178

View All Publications