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Section of Nutrition and Metabolism

Nutritional Methodology and Biostatistics Group

Current Research Topics

The Nutritional Methodology and Biostatistics Group (NMB) is involved in three main axes of activities:

NMB aims to develop statistical frameworks for the investigation of epidemiological and molecular data in relation to cancer risk and survival. The identification of biomarkers of dietary, environmental, lifestyle, and metabolic factors, to be used alone and in combination with dietary and lifestyle factors in etiological models, helps elucidate potential mechanisms of cancer development. Existing multivariate techniques are customized for supervised and unsupervised analyses of –omics data, involving metabolomics as well as epigenetic and genomic data. Analytical solutions are currently being sought that fully exploit the multidimensional complexity of the “exposome” concept while addressing the challenge of interpretation of data characterized by a large number of variables in agnostic settings.

Data analysis:
NMB oversees and supports statistical analyses of epidemiological data across the Section of Nutrition and Metabolism (NME) through coordination of data managers and data analysts, and through the supervision of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

Data centralization:
NMB coordinates the centralization of data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) at IARC with regular updates on study subjects′ vital status and cancer end-points from EPIC participating centres. In addition, data on diet and lifestyle collected during the follow-up period along with laboratory data from EPIC ancillary studies are subject to ongoing centralization efforts. NMB also coordinates data management activities of research projects developed within NME.

In addition, NMB coordinates specific work on alcohol and cancer through the implementation of a collaborative initiative for the evaluation of the role of alcohol in the risk of cancer in the EPIC study, and within the United States National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cohort Consortium. A large pool of worldwide prospective studies was created to address specific aspects of the relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of cancer and mortality. In addition, research will focus on the role of specific dietary and lifestyle factors in the occurrence of cancer and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Methodological work will move beyond current knowledge on risk factors for patterns of NCDs by considering multistate modelling and competing risks analysis.

Another research focus of NMB is the application of multilevel modelling for diet–disease associations, and the discovery, characterization, and risk quantification of dietary and lifestyle patterns. The measurement error structure of self-reported dietary assessments is investigated through comparison with exposure biomarkers in complex statistical models.

NMB adopts an interdisciplinary approach that integrates long-standing experience in the fields of biostatistics and epidemiology with contributions from bioinformatics and laboratory sciences. NMB also leads the coordination of the EPIC Statistical Working Group. This is an excellent platform to generate opportunities for scientific collaborations, promote statistical expertise within and beyond the EPIC network, and seek funding opportunities. International collaboration with worldwide scientists is key to developing NMB′s methodological research initiatives.

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