Erik Nelson


Dr. Nelson joined the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as an Assistant Professor in August 2014. He received his PhD in Comparative Endocrinology from the University of Calgary, Canada. He completed his postdoctoral training in the department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology at Duke University School of Medicine.

The research of Dr. Nelson is focused on the elucidating the endocrine and metabolic control of cancer pathophysiology. He is specifically interested in the molecular physiology behind how obesity and hypercholesterolemia contribute to cancer progression. His work has found that a metabolite of cholesterol 27-hydroxycholesterol, can bind to and activate the estrogen receptors, promoting breast tumor growth. 27-hydroxycholesterol was also found to increase breast cancer metastasis, a striking finding considering that the majority of breast cancer patients will eventually succumb to metastatic disease, not to the primary tumor. His laboratory is currently working on determining the mechanisms behind this observation and how other endocrine factors influence metastasis. The major goal is to develop novel lifestyle or therapeutic strategies to prevent and treat metastatic disease. This research is of incredible importance, given the current obesity crisis and that the majority of breast cancer patients will eventually relapse with metastatic disease.


Breast Cancer, Metastasis, Relapse, Obesity, Cholesterol, 27-hydroxycholesterol, Statins, Estrogen Receptor, Liver X Receptor, Endocrine Therapy, Endocrine Therapy Resistance, Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator, Tumor Microenvironment, Cancer Immunology, Prostate Cancer, Ovarian Cancer, Colon Cancer.

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