Dr. Belinsky has worked in the field of tobacco carcinogenesis for >20 years and is
internationally recognized for his work in lung cancer and translational studies for early detection
of lung cancer. His laboratory was the first to demonstrate that the tobacco specific nitrosamine NNK
causes DNA adducts that accumulate in the lung and lead to mutation of the K-ras oncogene. His work has
been extended to evaluate epigenetic mechanisms for lung cancer, specifically inactivation of genes through
aberrant promoter hypermethylation. Key findings from his laboratory include, identifying the p16 tumor
suppressor gene as an early event in lung, the detection of promoter methylation of specific genes up to 3
years prior to diagnosis of lung cancer, and the demonstration that inhibitors that block promoter
hypermethylation can prevent lung cancer development.
Currently, his research is focused on controlling lung
cancer through the identification of gene targets and pathways that are disrupted during the development of
this disease. His laboratory uses in vivo and in vitro animal and human models to identify and define
mechanistically genetic and epigenetic changes involved in cancer development and progression. Emphasis is
on conducting translational research that can ultimately lead to novel approaches for chemoprevention and
Current areas of research are as follows. Gene methylation detection in sputum is being
developed as a biomarker for early lung cancer diagnosis and for monitoring disease progression.
Genetic changes manifested through sequence variation are being assessed as determinants for gene methylation
with an initial emphasis on DNA repair pathways that will be extended to a genome-wide association study.
Genetic (including microRNA regulation) and epigenetic changes in early stages of transformation and genes
regulating these pathways are being identified using an in vitro model. A whole genome transcriptome model
is identifying novel genes methylated in adenocarcinomas from smokers and never smokers. The efficacy of
targeted and demethylation therapy for treatment and secondary prevention of lung cancer using murine and
orthotopic lung cancer models is being studied.