Iona Cheng, PhD, MPH

Iona Cheng, PhD, MPH

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Full Member, Population Sciences in the Pacific Program (Cancer Epidemiology), University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center

Academic Appointment(s):
Professor, School of Medicine, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco
Chief, Cancer Epidemiology Division, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco

PhD, Epidemiology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
Postdoc, Molecular/Genetic Epidemiology, University of California, San Francisco
MPH, Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale University

Research Focus

Dr. Iona Cheng is an epidemiologist with research interests focused on the role of genetics, health behaviors, environmental exposures, and neighborhood factors on cancer incidence and prognosis. Her overall research program is centered on understanding racial/ethnic differences in cancer risk. Dr. Cheng has an active program of research studies of nested case-control and cohort studies of the breast, lung, colorectal, and prostate cancer within the Multiethnic Cohort Study. She co-leads a team that has developed an electronic health record cohort of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders through collaborations between Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente Hawaii. In addition, she is conducting studies within Population Architecture Using Genomics and Epidemiology (PAGE) Study to discover novel genetic loci for complex traits among non-European ancestry populations. She is also Co-Investigator of Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry, a part of the California Cancer Registry and the NCI Surveillance Epidemiology End Results (SEER) Program, and the Colon Cancer Family Registry.

Selected Publications

DeRouen MC, Canchola AJ, Thompson CA, Jin A, Nie S, Wong C, Lichtensztajn D, Allen L, Patel MI, Daida YG, Luft HS, Shariff-Marco S, Reynolds P, Wakelee HA, Liang SY, Waitzfelder BE, Cheng I, Gomez SL. (2021). Incidence of Lung Cancer Among Never-Smoking Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Females. J Natl Cancer Inst;Aug 4:djab143. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djab143. Online ahead of print. PMID: 34345919.

Wu AH, Fruin S, Larson TV, Tseng CC, Wu J, Yang J, Jain J, Shariff-Marco S, Inamdar PP, Setiawan VW, Porcel J, Stram DO, Le Marchand L, Ritz B, Cheng I. (2021). Association between Airport-Related Ultrafine Particles and Risk of Malignant Brain Cancer: A Multiethnic Cohort Study. Cancer Res;Aug 15;81(16):4360-4369. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-21-1138. Epub 2021 Jun 24. PMID: 34167950.

Park SL, Li Y, Sheng X, Hom V, Xia L, Zhao K, Pooler L, Setiawan VW, Lim U, Monroe KR, Wilkens LR, Kristal BS, Lampe JW, Hullar M, Shepherd J, Loo LLM, Ernst T, Franke AA, Tiirikainen M, Haiman CA, Stram DO, Le Marchand L, Cheng I. (2020). Genome-Wide Association Study of Liver Fat: The Multiethnic Cohort Adiposity Phenotype Study. Hepatol Commun;Jun 25;4(8):1112-1123. doi: 10.1002/hep4.1533. eCollection 2020 Aug. PMID: 32766472.

Conroy SM, Shariff-Marco S, Yang J, Hertz A, Cockburn M, Shvetsov YB, Clarke CA, Abright CL, Haiman CA, Le Marchand L, Kolonel LN, Monroe KR, Wilkens LR, Gomez SL, Cheng I. (2018). Characterizing the neighborhood obesogenic environment in the Multiethnic Cohort: a multi-level infrastructure for cancer health disparities research. Cancer Causes Control;Jan;29(1):167-183. doi: 10.1007/s10552-017-0980-1. Epub 2017 Dec 8.

Cheng I, Le GM, Noone AM, Gali K, Patel M, Haile RW, Wakelee HA, Gomez SL. (2014). Lung cancer incidence trends by histology type among Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander populations in the United States, 1990-2010. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; Nov;23(11):2250-65. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-14-0493. PMID: 25368400.

Publication list via PubMed

Active Grants

I. Cheng, Co-Investigator; S. Gomez, PI
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
“Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (main)”
Goals of this contract are to develop, collect and report regularly on population-based cancer incidence and survival data for the greater San Francisco Bay Area as part of a nation-wide incidence reporting program.
08/01/2018 – 4/30/2028

I. Cheng, Co-Investigator; A. Maunakea, PI
“Socioecological Determinants of Immunoepigenetic Signatures of Diabetes Risk in Indigenous Communities”
Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) experience social inequities, such as low socioeconomic status, and suffer from a disproportionately higher prevalence and earlier onset of Type-2 diabetes mellitus (DM) than other racial/ethnic groups, however, the interactions between the social environment and biological mechanism(s) that underlie these disparities are unknown. We posit that the social environment conditions the epigenomic landscape and gut microbiome composition that regulate inflammation and metabolic pathways, which may precede the onset of DM. The prevalence of protective or adverse social factors may impinge on this “immunoepigenetic-gut microbiome axis” to give rise to the DM health disparities observed in NHPIs, a potential outcome of this study with generalizable implications for improving early identification of DM to enable preventative strategies for all.
07/01/2021 – 06/30/2026

I. Cheng, Co-Investigator: S. Gomez, S. Yao, L Kushi, MPIs
“Insights from Asian Populations into Disparities in Breast Cancer Prognosis and Outcomes”
The goal of this study is to investigate multilevel factors (health behaviors and contextual factors, clinical characteristics, treatment, and tumor immune response) in relation to overall and breast cancer-specific mortality in Asian American breast cancer cases.
06/08/2020 – 05/31/2025

I. Cheng, S. Gomez, M. Chen, MPIs
“Elucidating Lung Cancer Etiology among Asian American Female Never Smokers”
This project will identify the attributable risk of known, putative, and suspected risk factors for lung cancer among Asian American (AA) female never smokers. Recognizing that currently there are no U.S. datasets nor existing cohorts with data for evaluating putative and suspected risk factors that may be most relevant to this population, we propose a robust, population-based case-control study, leveraging early-case ascertainment methods from cancer registries and tested state-of-the-science approaches for unbiased control ascertainment.
12/01/2019 – 11/30/2024

I. Cheng, Co-Investigator; C. Haiman, PI
“Research on Prostate Cancer in African American Men: Defining the Roles of Genetics, Immunity and Social Stressors: “RESPOND” Study”
This Program Project comprises four integrated Projects and four support Cores to address the role of social stressors, genetics, somatic profiles, and tumor inflammation on aggressive prostate cancer among African American men. Dr. Gomez leads Project 1, which will apply recently developed multilevel frameworks that emphasize the consideration and evaluation of exposures from “cells to society” to understand how “stress gets under the skin” to cause biological vulnerability, specifically the high burden of prostate cancer among AA men.
07/05/2018 – 06/30/2024

L. Loo, I. Cheng, PIs
“The Role of 27-Hydroxycholesterol in Breast Cancer: A Population-Based Multiethnic Study”
The goal of this study is to examine the relationships between of 27-hydroxycholesterol (27HC) with body fat distribution and breast cancer risk as well as gene expression of 27HC regulating enzymes and tumor characteristics in the Multiethnic Cohort.
03/01/2019 – 02/28/2024

I. Cheng, Co-Investigator; S. Gomez, PI
“Active Surveillance and Patient Reported Outcomes in a Diverse Population of Prostate Cancer Patients” The goal of this study is to identify determinants of active surveillance and treatment-associated patient-reported outcomes among a diverse, population-based sample of men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer.
09/17/2017 – 08/31/2023

I. Cheng, Co-Investigator; S. Han, PI
“Evaluation of Genetic, Clinical, and Environmental Risk Factors to Establish Effective Screening Strategies for Second Primary Lung Cancer” This study will involve the data coordination, management, harmonization, and quality control evaluation of the complex lung cancer consortia datasets. We will also contribute to study design, interpretation of results, and manuscript writing. This work will contribute to identifying the genetic, environmental, and clinical determinants of second primary lung cancer.
05/01/2018 – 04/30/2023

I. Cheng, Co-Investigator: T. Matise, C. Gignoux, PIs
National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
“PAGE III: Population Architecture using Genomics and Epidemiology”
The goals of this project are to identify and characterize genetic variants that influence complex traits and diseases in ancestrally diverse individuals, integrate information on sequence variation and omics to better understand the genetic underpinnings of complex traits in the diverse PAGE participants, and characterize biological pathways underlying disease risk both within and between populations.
06/15/2019 – 03/31/2023

I. Cheng, Co-Investigator; S. Gomez, PI
California Department of Public Health
“California Cancer Regional Registry (Region 1/8) Renewal”
Contract to operate the Greater SF Bay Area California Tumor Registry as part of a statewide cancer reporting program. Information supports epidemiological research, cancer cluster evaluations, and technical assistance to researchers and the general public.
08/01/2018 – 06/30/2022

I. Cheng, Co-Investigator; A. Maunakea, PI
National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
“Social Epigenomic Conditioning of Diabetes”
The goal of this study is to improve our understanding of diabetes disparities in relation to the interplay of social factors and epigenomic conditioning within the Multiethnic Cohort.
09/01/2017 – 06/30/2022

I. Cheng, L. Loo MPIs
“The role of 27-hydroxycholesterol in breast cancer: a population-based multiethnic study”
This multilevel study of breast cancer survival in the Multiethnic Cohort will evaluate the contribution of obesity-related biomarkers, including the novel 27HC metabolite and tumor characteristics as key biological factors in concert with demographic, lifestyle, treatment, and social factors among Native Hawaiian, African American, Latino, and Japanese American women―populations underrepresented in cancer research.
04/01/2019 - 05/31/2022

I. Cheng, Co-Investigator; W. Setiawan, PI
“Understanding Determinants of Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Liver Cancer and Chronic Liver Disease in Understudied and High-Risk Populations”
This study will examine the association of lifestyle, genetic, social, and contextual factors with liver cancer and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease to better understand disease etiology in, African Americans, Japanese Americans, Native Hawaiians and whites and the factors underlying disease disparities in these populations.
03/01/2018 – 02/28/2022

I. Cheng, PI
“Pediatric Cancer Whole Slide Imaging (WSI)”
The goal of this study will be to address the feasibility of and best practices for obtaining and de-identifying whole slide imaging and associated metadata.
08/17/2020 – 12/31/2021 (NCX)