by Christina Crowe


In this series, we spotlight several researchers in the Department of Pathology who hold endowed professorships and, in one case, a chair. We recognize each of these individuals for his or her dedication to and innovation in their respective fields of study.

The third individual we showcase is a longstanding member of our research faculty, Elizabeth E. Brown, PhD, MPH, second holder of the Endowed Professorship in Cancer Pathobiology, in the Division of Molecular & Cellular Pathology.

IMG 0157 1Elizabeth Brown,Ph.D., with Robert and Ruth Anderson Endowed Chair George Netto, M.D.

Elizabeth E. Brown, Ph.D, MPH,
was already accomplished before completing her graduate training and accepting her first faculty appointment at UAB in 2006. Brown was instrumental in obtaining National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation of the Oregon Cancer Center (OCC) by establishing Center infrastructure to support the clinical research domain. It was this leadership experience, centered on promoting the translation of science across a wide spectrum of epidemiologists, clinicians, basic scientists, administrators and community stakeholders, that ignited her passion for immuno-epidemiology.

Brown recounts that, “the field of epidemiology takes the best of each of these medical disciplines to make the biggest impact on improving the public’s health.”

In 2004, Brown completed graduate training in cancer epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, followed by a post-doctorate program in cancer epidemiology and immunogenetics at the NCI.

During her time at the NCI, she conducted a field study and spent time traveling with medical teams in Sicily, Italy, making house calls across the island to study Kaposi sarcoma and its related viral infectionKSHV, capturing epidemiology, clinical and laboratory data and specimens from Sicilian participants.  

“Our study participants and staff were some of the most humble, hard-working, selfless people I ever had the privilege of working with,” she recalls. “It was this experience, together with that gained at the OCC and during my training while at Johns Hopkins, which solidified my research interest in viral etiology or underlying immune competence related to cancer.”

Later in 2006, Brown accepted her first faculty role as assistant professor in the UAB Department of Epidemiology, UAB School of Public Health, where she also worked as an adjunct scientist in the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics for four years. Not long after joining UAB, in 2008 Brown established the Integrative Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology (IMAGE) study of myeloma, in order to better understand the causes of multiple myeloma and the pre-malignant conditions that lead to this devastating blood cancer. Her time working with leaders in the field at NCI, together with the timing of the creation of a new consortium, the International Lymphoma and Epidemiology Consortium (InterLymph), influenced her to pursue research in multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer that was, “immune-mediated and underappreciated at the time,” she says.

At UAB, Brown served on more committees and centers than can be named, in disciplines ranging from immunology to minority health to population sciences and more. She has been on numerous editorial boards, NIH and DOD study sections and advisory panels, and is currently the immediate past Chair of InterLymph.  Brown has taught several didactic courses, primarily in epidemiology, and mentored dozens of students ranging from master level in epidemiology to doctoral candidates, as well as medical trainees, postdoctoral fellows and early stage investigators.

Today, she is one of the country’s foremost researchers in multiple myeloma.

“I remain passionate about proposing new research, team building, building programs and a legacy that includes the next generation of epidemiologists and researchers,” Brown says. “I love formulating new scientific ideas and bringing people together across disciplines to do great science.”

In fall of 2022, Brown was named the second-ever holder of the Endowed Professorship in Cancer Pathobiology, in the Department of Pathology. The endowment—originally established in 2012—was held by Ralph Sanderson, Ph.D., Division Director, Molecular and Cellular Pathology, for the past decade.

“As the initial recipient of the Endowed Professorship in Cancer Pathobiology 10 years ago, I am well aware of the importance and honor of holding this title,” Sanderson says. “I am absolutely delighted that this title has now been passed from me to Dr. Brown. I have worked closely with her for a number of years, and have highly valued and admired her accomplishments as an international leader in the field of molecular epidemiology. She has developed unmatched patient-based programs in both multiple myeloma and lupus, and I am certain she will continue making lasting contributions that will impact those patients, as well as those she trains in her research program.” 

Barry Sleckman, M.D., Professor and Director of the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, says this of Brown: “Being named to an endowed professorship is the recognition that an investigator has made important contributions to their field that bring distinction to the investigator and to UAB. Dr. ElizabethBrown has certainly made important contributions to the field of molecular epidemiology and I cannot imagine anyone more deserving of being installed as the Endowed Professor in Cancer Pathobiology.”  

In June 2021, Brown received a $3.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to support her investigation of the epigenetic contribution to the risk of a condition called monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, or MGUS, in African Americans. MGUS is a precursor to multiple myeloma, the most common blood cancer affecting African Americans. Multiple myeloma is characterized by the prolonged accumulation and survival of antibody-producing tumor cells. The disease has a median survival rate of about five years. This U01 grant is funded for five years; the research having evolved from a think tank in which Brown took part in 2018. Through 2023, she will continue work on an NIH/NIAMS-funded R01 award on “Characterization of the lupus nephritis microRNAome.”

She is a site PI for an NCI-funded R01 on, “Mutographs differentiating racial and time of onset differences in multiple myeloma,” and a multiple principle investigator (MPI) for another R01 on, “Impact of genetic susceptibility along the continuum from MUGS to MM.”

Brown is senior scientist with and co-leader of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center. She and other endowees were recognized at a reception hosted by the Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine in October, 2022.