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Brenda Y. Hernandez, PhD, MPH

Brenda Y. Hernandez, PhD, MPH
  • Associate Researcher (Associate Professor)
    and Full Member

    Cancer Epidemiology Program
  • Associate Director, Pathology Shared Resource
  • Principal Investigator, Hawaii Tumor Registry
    University of Hawaii Cancer Center
  • Academic Appointments

  • Associate Graduate Faculty, Department of Tropical Medicine,
    Medical Microbiology, and Pharmacology
  • Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Pathology
    John A. Burns School of Medicine


  • PhD, Epidemiology
    University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • MPH, Epidemiology
    Yale University School of Medicine

Research Focus

Human papillomavirus (HPV)-induced carcinogenesis is one of my primary areas of research. A major focus is the natural history of HPV infection and its role the development of cancers of the anogenitalia and head & neck. Our work has included populations in Hawaii, the mainland U.S., American Samoa, Vietnam, and Tanzania. I have conducted NIH-funded epidemiologic and clinical studies of HPV in females and males through which we characterized correlates of viral incidence, persistence, and transmission. Our findings that HPV clearance is reduced in uncircumcised men elucidated a possible mechanism by which circumcision protects against penile cancer. We were the first to yield empirical data on the transmission dynamics of HPV infection in male-female couples including the observation that rates of genital transmission are higher from females-to-males and can involve non-genital sites. We developed a method for the self-collection of male genital specimens for HPV detection which we validated in a CDC-funded randomized clinical trial. I am currently involved in a study comparing urine-based detection of HPV and cervical cytology among Yapese women in the Federated States of Micronesia. We have collaborated with national and international partners to investigate the role of HPV in malignancies of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, anus, oropharynx, and larynx in order to measure the potential impact of future prophylactic vaccination. Our research has established that HPV plays a role in nearly all of anal cancers, a malignancy with rising incidence in the U.S. We demonstrated that HPV plays a role in over half of all penile cancers in the U.S. and may contribute to 1 in 5 laryngeal cancers. We found that the prevalence of HPV in oropharyngeal tumors has increased over the past several decades, indicating that infection is driving the increasing incidence of this tumor. We also confirmed the findings of others that patients with HPV-positive oropharyngeal tumors have improved survival compared to those with HPV-negative tumors.

My research extends to other infection-associated cancers including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). We compared hepatitis B and C serology to the detection of HBV DNA and HCV RNA in tumor tissue and found that viral hepatitis may be unrecognized in up to 17% of patients with HCC when based on serology alone. In the Multiethnic Cohort we observed that diabetes increased the risk for HCC among those who were seronegative for HBV and HCV.

My research also focuses on understanding ethnic disparities in cancers of the breast, thyroid, and other sites. We observed that expression of specific insulin-axis proteins in breast tumor tissue is associated with poor survival in Native Hawaiian women. In the Multiethnic Cohort, we found that the association of weight and weight change with prostate cancer risk varied by ethnic group.

In addition to my primary research, I serve as the Associate Director of the UH Cancer Center Pathology Shared Resource and as the Principal Investigator of the Hawaii Tumor Registry (HTR), the statewide NCI SEER cancer registry responsible for the surveillance of all cancers diagnosed in the state of Hawaii.

Selected Publications (from over 85 publications)

  • Hernandez BY, Wilkens LR, Le Marchand L, Horio D, Chong CD, et al. (2015). Differences in IGF-axis protein expression and survival among multiethnic breast cancer patients. Cancer Medicine, 4(3):354-62. PMID: 25619494, PMCID: PMC4380961.
  • Hernandez BY, Goodman MT, Lynch CF, Cozen W, Unger ER, et al. (2014). Human papillomavirus prevalence in invasive laryngeal cancer in the United States. PloS O, 9(12):e115931. PMID: 25546150, PMCID: PMC4278830.
  • Hernandez BY, Goodman MT, Unger ER, Steinau M, Powers A, et al. (2014). Human papillomavirus genotype prevalence in invasive penile cancers from a registry-based United States population. Frontiers in Oncology,4:9. PMID: 24551592, PMCID: PMC3914298.
  • Setiawan VW, Hernandez BY, Lu SC, Stram DO, Wilkens LR, Le Marchand L, Henderson BE. ( 2014). Diabetes and racial/ethnic differences in hepatocellular carcinoma risk: the multiethnic cohort. J Natl Cancer Inst, Oct 18;106(12). PMID: 25326644; PMCID: PMC4334798.
  • Hernandez BY, Zhu X, Kwee S, Chan OT, Tsai N, et al. (2013). Viral hepatitis markers in liver tissue in relation to serostatus in hepatocellular carcinoma. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 22(11):2016-23. PMID: 23983238, PMCID: PMC3818344.

Publication list via PubMed

Active Grants

  • B. Hernandez, PI
    "SEER-Linked Virtual Tissue Repository"
  • B. Hernandez, PI
    Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results
  • B. Hernandez, Co-Investsigator (Ofili, PI)
    5 U54 MD008149-09
    "RCMI Translational Research Network"
  • B. Hernandez, Associate Director, Pathology Shared Resource (J. Hedges, PI)
    5 P30 CA071789-16
    "University of Hawaii Cancer Center CCSG"
  • B. Hernandez, Epidemiologist (L. Buenconsejo-Lum, PI)
    5 U58 DP003906-04
    "USAPIN Pacific Regional Central Cancer Registry" 06/30/12-06/29/17
  • B. Hernandez, Co-Investigator (S. Kwee and G. Okimoto, PIs)
    5 R01 CA161209-05
    "Functional Genomics and Molecular Imaging of Liver Diseases and Cancer"
  • B. Hernandez, PI
    "Patterns of Care/Quality of Care: Diagnosis Year 2104"
  • B. Hernandez, Co-Investigator (L. Loo, PI)
    5 R21 CA176555-02
    "Obesity and IGF-axis Activation in Native Hawaiian Women with Breast Ca
  • B. Hernandez, Project Leader (J. Hedges, PI) NCI 3 P30 CA071789-15S4 University of Hawaii Cancer Center CCSG "Administrative Supplement for NCI-designated Cancer Centers to Support Collaborations with Existing State and Local Coalitions and HPV Immunization Programs, with a Focus on HPV Vaccination in Pediatric Care Settings" 07/01/14-06/30/16
  • B. Hernandez, Co-Investigator (J. Hedges, PI)
    3 P30 CA071789-15S3
    University of Hawaii Cancer Center CCSG
    "Supplement: Administrative Supplements to Promote Cancer Prevention and Control Research in Low and Middle Income Countries "
  • B. Hernandez, Consortium PI (Umbricht, PI)
    NCI 5 R01 CA140311-04
    "Multicenter Genetic, Epigenetic & Expression Analysis of DCIS Outcome Predictors"
    04/19/11 – 03/31/16
  • B. Hernandez, PI
    UH Cancer Center Pilot Funds
    Relaxin in the Etiology of Thyroid Cancer
    10/1/14 – 9/30/15 (no-cost extension)
  • B. Hernandez, Co-Leader (C. Vogel/D. Ward/N. Palafox, PIs)
    5 U54 CA143727-05
    University of Guam/Cancer Research Center of Hawaii Partnership (1 of 2)
    "Pilot Project IV, The Influence of Areca (Betel) Nut Chewing on the Oral Microbiome in Micronesia"
    09/01/09 – 08/31/15 (no-cost extension)
  • B. Hernandez, Co-Leader (C. Vogel/D. Ward/N. Palafox, PIs)
    5 U54 CA143727-05
    University of Guam/Cancer Research Center of Hawaii Partnership – Guam Cancer Registry Core
    "Infrastructure II, Guam Cancer Registry"
    09/01/09-08/31/15 (no-cost extension)