Brenda Y. Hernandez, PhD, MPH

Brenda Y. Hernandez, PhD, MPH

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Principal Investigator, Hawaiʻi Tumor Registry, University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center
Co-Director, Pathology Shared Resource, University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center
Full Member, Population Sciences in the Pacific Program (Cancer Epidemiology), University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center

Academic Appointment(s):
Associate Researcher (Associate Professor), University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Associate Graduate Faculty, Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology, and Pharmacology, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of Pathology, John A. Burns School of Medicine University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

PhD, Epidemiology, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
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 Hawaiʻi, the mainland U.S., American Samoa, Micronesia, 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 Hawaiʻi Tumor Registry (HTR), the statewide NCI SEER cancer registry responsible for the surveillance of all cancers diagnosed in the state of Hawaiʻi.

Selected Publications

Hernandez BY, Zhu X, Goodman MT, Gatewood R, Mendiola P, Quinata K, Paulino YC. (2017). Betel nut chewing, oral premalignant lesions, and the oral microbiome. PLoS One; 12(2):e0172196.

Hernandez BY, Rahman M, Lynch CF, Cozen W, Unger ER, Steinau M, Thompson T, Sibug Saber M, Altekruse SF, Goodman MT, Powers A, Lyu C, Saraiya M, The HPV Typing of Cancer Workgroup.(2016). p16 (INK4A) expression in invasive laryngeal cancers. Papillomavirus Research; 2(2016)52–55.

Maskarinec G, Ju D, Horio D, Loo LMW; Hernandez BY. (2016). Involution of breast tissue and mammographic density. Breast Cancer Research; 18(1):128.

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.

Publication list via PubMed

Active Grants

B. Hernandez, PI
"SEER-Linked Virtual Tissue Repository"

B. Hernandez, PI
"Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results"

B. Hernandez, PI
"Patterns of Care/Quality of Care 2016"