Research Focus

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 intervention.

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.

Belinksy, Steven, PhD


Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute
2425 Ridgecrest Dr., SE
Albuquerque, NM 87108



  • American Association for Cancer Research
  • International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer