Dr. Ahsan’s research interests focus on studying the inter-relationships between environmental and genomic factors in cancer and other diseases and exploiting information on these relationships at a population level in developing and evaluating prevention interventions in humans. Specifically, his research integrates the environmental, nutritional and life-style factors with measures of host factors and modern molecular genomics (involving DNA, RNA and protein variations) to understand the etiology, pathogenesis, prognosis and prevention of cancer and other disorders of national and international public health significance. He has published extensively on the molecular epidemiology and prevention of health effects of arsenic exposure and also on the molecular and genetic epidemiology of breast and other cancers. Dr. Ahsan’s recent NIH-funded and other major research projects include:
- Illinois Precision Medicine Consortium (IPMC): As one of the three IPMC Principal Investigators of this NIH Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program award, Dr. Ahsan and his IPMC colleagues are enrolling 150,000 participants through 14 Illinois medical centers into this national research resource of more than one million participants.
- ChicAgo Center for Health and EnvironmenT (CACHET): Dr. Ahsan partnered with the University of Illinois at Chicago to establish the first NIEHS P30 Environmental Health Core Center in Illinois. The center will convene a diverse set of researchers from two major Chicago institutions to promote collaborative environmental health research through newly established facility cores, focus groups, pilot projects and career development initiatives.
- Chicago Multiethnic Population And Surveillance Study (COMPASS): A population-based cohort study designed by researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine led by Dr. Ahsan to understand how lifestyle, healthcare-related factors, environment, and genetics (inherent tendency to acquire or avert disease) affect health. Over the next several years, COMPASS (http://compass.uchicago.edu) will evaluate many different scientific questions relating to lifestyle, environment, biological and other factors to identify the reasons why specific individuals or racial population subgroups have different risks of developing cancer and other chronic diseases. Identifying the causes of these diseases and their differences across population sub-groups will help us develop new strategies to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases among all Chicagoans.
- Genome-wide Association Study of Risk and Prognosis of Early-onset Breast Cancer: As principal investigator, Dr. Ahsan directs a multi-stage genome-wide association study to identify novel genes for breast cancer risk and prognosis among 6,800 young (<50 years) women from the US, Germany, Canada and Australia, including 3,800 population-based early-onset breast cancer cases and 3,000 population controls.
- Meta-analyses of Genomewide Association Studies of Early-onset Breast Cancer Risk: As co-principal investigator of the NCI U-19 post-GWAS initiative, Dr. Ahsan and his colleagues are leading a genome-wide association meta-analysis to identify genomic determinants of early-onset breast cancer risk among >12,000 cases and controls (<50 years) in collaboration with investigators from several breast cancer research consortiums across the world.
- Health Effects of Arsenic Longitudinal Study [HEALS]: As principal investigator, Dr. Ahsan directs a prospective cohort study of ~35,000 men and women in Bangladesh to investigate the intermediate- and long-term pre-malignant, malignant and non-malignant health effects of environmental arsenic exposure from drinking water.
- Global Environmental and Occupational Health (GEOHealth) Center in Bangladesh: As a principal investigator, Dr. Ahsan and his colleagues direct research and training activities addressing health impacts of air pollution, garment industry job and climate change in partnership with other local and international institutions.
- Planning Regional Center for Research Excellence in Non-Communicable Disease in Bangladesh: As a principal investigator, Dr. Ahsan and his colleagues direct a series of planning activities in partnership with other local and international institutions to establish a regional center of research excellence in non-communicable disease in Bangladesh.
- Bangladesh vitamin E and Selenium Trial [BEST]: As principal investigator, Dr. Ahsan directs a randomized placebo-controlled 2x2 factorial clinical trial of selenium and vitamin E supplementation among 7,000 individuals with pre-malignant skin lesions for the prevention of cancers and deaths.
- Gene Environment Multi-Phenotype Studies (GEMS): By efficient sampling from HEALS and BEST cohorts Dr. Ahsan is leading a large-scale genomic study to integrate variations in SNPs, gene expression and DNA methylation across the genome to comprehensively evaluate their independent and joint effects on a range of clinical and molecular phenotypes among 6,000 well-characterized Bangladeshi individuals.