About Dr. Cathrine Hoyo

Cancer epidemiologist Cathrine Hoyo, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, at the Duke Cancer Center. Her main focus of research is understanding the underlying factors that may explain differences in the occurrence of cancers of the esophagus and prostate between individuals of African descent and others.

Dr. Hoyo is an epidemiologist and Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at North Carolina State University, and co-leader of the Integrative Health Science Facility Core in the Center for Human Health and the Environment. Her research has the overarching goal of improving our understanding of how early development influences risk of common chronic diseases, especially those that exhibit racial/ethnic differences in incidence and/or mortality, including cardiometabolic diseases and some cancers. To accomplish this, her research program has taken a two pronged approach: i) develop and continue to follow a cohort of newborns to identify stable epigenetic targets that are acquired early and are mitotically heritable and are associated with known risk factors for early obesity as such markers can serve as risk markers, and (ii) conduct population-based case control studies to determine whether identified epigenetic targets are associated with risk of these obesity-related chronic diseases in adulthood. She is serving as the PI responsible for the development and maintenance of the Newborn Epigenetics Study (NEST), a birth cohort following children currently ages 3-5years. In the last three years, she has used the extensive repository of data from NEST and other studies to determine the extent to which prenatal exposure to toxic metals is associated with shifts in the epigenome and increased risk of childhood obesity. To this end, she has collaborated with geochemist (Vengosh) and analytic chemist (Darrah) to multiplex measure toxic and essential metals in prenatal peripheral blood in NEST. She has also evaluated the extent to which toxic metals shift the epigenetic profile in vitro and in humans through a collaboration with the Cincinnati Lead Study investigators. From these efforts she has two manuscripts under review, and four recent publications in vitro and 28-32 year old men and women with carefully documented exposure during the first 7 years of life showed that Pb, Cd and As permanently shift DNA methylation at differentially methylated regions regulating genomically imprinted genes.

Dr. Hoyo, a native of Zimbabwe, obtained her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Sierra Leone, Njala College, a Master’s degree from UC Berkeley, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1998. Her postdoctoral fellowship was at UNC Lilongwe, Malawi under the supervision of Irving Hoffman and Myron Cohen. Her first faculty appointment was at North Carolina Central University, a Historically Black College in Durham, NC, where she spent two years.  She then joined the faculty at Duke University, School of Medicine, where she spent nearly 10 years in the Department of Community and Family Medicine and another two years in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Division of Epidemiology, before joining North Carolina State University.