Melissa A. Merritt, PhD

Melissa A. Merritt, PhD

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

Academic Appointment(s):
Assistant Researcher (Assistant Professor), University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Degree(s):
PhD, Population Health, University of Queensland, Australia

Research Focus

Dr. Merritt's research utilizes epidemiological studies to evaluate risk factors for women's cancers with a focus on gynecologic (ovarian and endometrial) cancers. Her goal is to develop better strategies for their prevention. She also hopes to improve the health of women diagnosed with gynecologic cancers by studying modifiable factors that may influence survival following a cancer diagnosis.

Dr. Merritt has led studies to investigate diet, reproductive factors, metabolic and obesity-related factors and medication use in relation to cancer risk and/or survival using data from several epidemiological cohort studies. She has also trained extensively in molecular biology and she conducts studies to evaluate the molecular mechanisms that underlie established risk factor-disease associations and mechanisms that may explain differences in disease outcomes.

Her current work includes projects to:

  1. Evaluate aspirin and non-aspirin NSAID use in relation to ovarian cancer survival in the ovarian cancer cohort consortium (OC3)
  2. Investigate pre-diagnostic urinary environmental endocrine disruptors in relation to endometrial cancer risk in the Multiethnic Cohort (MEC) study
  3. Study the role of 27-hydroxycholesterol pathway in relation to endometrial cancer progression using tumor tissues from patients in Hawaiʻi
  4. Understand racial/ethnic differences in risk factors for ovarian, endometrial and breast cancers using data from the MEC study and ovarian cancer consortia datasets
  5. Investigate how diet may influence body fat distribution subtypes in the MEC-Adiposity Phenotype Study

Selected Publications

Merritt MA, Rice M, Barnard M, et al. (2018). Pre-diagnosis and post-diagnosis use of common analgesics and ovarian cancer prognosis (NHS/NHSII): a cohort study. Lancet Oncol; 9(8):1107-1116.

Merritt MA, Strickler HD, Einstein MH, Yang HP, Sherman ME, Wentzensen N, Brouwer-Visser J, Cossio MJ, Whitney KD, Yu H, Gunter MJ, Huang GS. (2016). Insulin/IGF and sex hormone axes in human endometrium and associations with endometrial cancer risk factors. Cancer Causes Control; 27(6):737-48.

Merritt MA, Tzoulaki I, Tworoger SS, et al. (2015). Investigation of Dietary Factors and Endometrial Cancer Risk Using a Nutrient-wide Association Study Approach in the EPIC and Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and NHSII. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev.; 24(2):466-71.

Merritt MA, Riboli E, Murphy N, Kadi M, Tjønneland A, Olsen A, … Gunter MJ. (2015). Reproductive factors and risk of mortality in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition; a cohort study. BMC Med.; 13:252.

Merritt MA, Bentink S, Schwede M, Iwanicki MP, Quackenbush J, Woo T, Agoston ES, Reinhardt F, Crum CP, Berkowitz RS, Mok SC, Witt AE, Jones MA, Wang B, Ince TA. (2013). Gene expression signature of normal cell-of-origin predicts ovarian tumor outcomes. PLOS ONE; 8(11): e80314.

Publication list via PubMed

Active Grants

M.A. Merritt, PI
University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center Seed Grants
“Investigation of 27-hydroxycholesterol as a biomarker for aggressive endometrial cancer”
This study addresses the need to identify biomarkers for aggressive endometrial cancer that are present in the earliest stage of carcinogenesis. We will investigate the 27-hydroxycholesterol (27HC) pathway in endometrial cancer tissues and its precursor lesions (atypical endometrial hyperplasia).
11/01/18 – 06/30/20

M.A. Merritt, Co-PI; M. Gunter, PI
Cancer Research UK Project Grant
"Metabolomics and Endometrial Cancer"
01/01/16 – 12/31/19