Since 2005, I have established a thriving lab and secured sustained funding for my research program in chronic disease epidemiology: 15 grants ($3M) as principal investigator (PI), two ($128K) as co-PI, and 13 ($12M) as coinvestigator. I have authored 71 publications, and presented 120 abstracts in national and international conferences. I have been the recipient of several fellowships and salary awards, amounting to 1M$.
My research program is articulated around two main themes:
1) Studying factors that can modulate the immune response and their role on the development of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases;
2) Studying lifestyle and environmental exposures in relation to cancer risk.
Establishment of a research infrastructure using administrative databases in Québec. I designed a research program aiming at studying the association between immune stimulation at an early age and the development of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, using Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccination as a marker of nonspecific immune stimulation. I obtained an infrastructure grant (CFI Leaders Opportunity Fund) to computerize the provincial BCG vaccination registry. After confirming data quality and feasibility of linkage with administrative health databases [Rousseau et al., BMC Med Inform Decis Mak 2014], it became the cornerstone of my research program. The first phase of the Quebec Birth Cohort on Immunity and Health (QBCIH) was the 1974 birth cohort (n=81,496) established by linkage of demographic and health administrative databases to study asthma and diabetes. In partnership with Statistics Quebec, we performed data collection in a subset of subjects, and demonstrated the validity of this two-stage sampling approach [El-Zein et al., Epidemiol 2016]. In 2015, we were funded to expand the QBCIH to individuals born from 1970 to 1974 (400,611 subjects), allowing us to investigate risk factors for lymphoma and multiple sclerosis. This research infrastructure now enables my team to conduct powerful longitudinal studies with several decades of follow-up, large sample sizes, and very importantly, the strength of population-based data. So far, this infrastructure was central to approximately 20 trainees’ projects.
Investigation of risk factors for inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. I have published on BCG vaccination and its unintended health effects [Rousseau et al., Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2008; El-Zein et al., Int J Epidemiol 2010]. I have conducted studies on BCG vaccination in relation to asthma [El-Zein et al., Am J Epidemiol 2017] and to diabetes [Rousseau et al., Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol 2016]. Under my supervision, members of my team have analyzed early life exposures (e.g., pet ownership, perinatal factors) in relation to disease risk [presentations at international conferences, manuscripts in preparation]. I have worked with Dr Jantchou from Centre hospitalier universitaire Ste-Justine on a meta-analysis of perinatal factors and risk of inflammatory bowel disease [Gentilcore et al, 4th International Symposium on Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease, September 2017].
Studying risk factors for head and neck cancers. I have conducted research on oral cancer and oral precancerous lesion, as well as their risk factors. I have investigated the role of HPV infection and sexual behaviour in head & neck cancers with some postdoctoral and doctoral trainees that I co-supervised with Dr. Belinda Nicolau at McGill University [e.g., Madathil et al., Oral Oncol 2016; Laprise et al., Int J Cancer 2016, Oral Oncol 2017; Farsi et al., Cancer Epidemiol 2015]. I am co-Principal Investigator with Dr. Nicolau for a cohort study on the natural history of oral premalignant lesions and a case-control study on the role of HPV in the etiology of HNC. I have collaborated closely with Dr Nicolau, Canada Research Chair and expert in life course epidemiology, in her project on head and neck cancer aetiology studied through a life course approach. We also collaborated in an analytical project on life course socioeconomic position and risk of several cancers [Nicolau et al., Int J Cancer 2018].
Investigation of lifestyle, occupational exposures, and cancer risk. I have cumulated several important contributions in this research area. I participated in an exhaustive review of occupational carcinogens [Siemiatycki et al., Environ Health Perspect 2004; Rousseau et al., Environ Health Perspect 2005]. Highly cited, these articles are used as reference papers by health and safety officers in many countries (e.g. UK Health and Safety Executives) and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Groups when assessing the carcinogenicity of specific substances for humans. I have also focused on cancer risk related to specific occupational carcinogens, such as lead compounds [Rousseau et al., Am J Epidemiol 2007; Wynant et al., Occ Env Med 2013], formaldehyde [Mahboubi et al., Scan J Work Env Health 2013], cotton dust [Christensen et al., BMC Cancer. 2015], asbestos & man-made vitreous fibers [Pintos et al., J Occup Environ Med 2009; Pintos et al., J Occup Environ Med 2008], and diesel & gasoline emissions [Parent et al., Am J Epidemiol 2007; Xu et al., Occup Environ Med 2017]. I have actively participated in projects on work circumstances such as night work [Parent et al., Am J Epidemiol 2012], stress [Blanc-Lapierre et al., Prev Med 2016; Blanc-Lapierre et al., Front Oncol 2017], and physical activity [Parent et al., Cancer Epidemiol 2011]. I have been involved in several analyses on prostate cancer risk conducted in collaboration with Dr Marie-Élise Parent, such as those on allergic diseases [Weiss et al., Cancer Epidemiol 2014], sexual behaviour [Spence et al., Cancer Epidemiol 2014], and circumcision [Spence et al., BJU Int 2014].