School of Public Health

Vaughan, Thomas

Thomas L. Vaughan

Professor, Epidemiology


MD University of Illinois, 1978
MPH Epidemiology, University of Washington, 1983
BS Chemical Engineering, Cornell University, 1974

Contact Info

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Box 358080; Mailstop: M4-B874
1100 Fairview Ave N
P.O. Box 19024
Seattle, WA 98109
Tel: 206-667-5134


Over the past 40 years, the incidence of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus among white males in the US has increased almost 10-fold. Rapid increases among females and African American males also have been observed. This rapidly fatal cancer is becoming increasingly common in parts of western Europe as well. Esophageal adenocarcinoma is thought to develop in a series of potentially reversible steps, usually under conditions of chronic reflux. A substantial proportion, perhaps 10 - 15%, of those with chronic reflux develop a metaplastic epithelium (Barrett's esophagus). Those with metaplasia are at substantial risk, estimated at 0.5% per year, of developing adenocarcinoma. Paralleling the histopathological changes are a number of cell cycle and genetic abnormalities, such as loss or mutation of tumor suppressor genes, telomere shortening and aneuploidy, resulting in increased genetic instability and eventually invasive cancer.

One major focus of our research is the identification of environmental and host factors that underlie this dramatic increase in incidence. We have approached this through population-based case-control studies of cancer, community-based case-control studies of newly diagnosed Barrett's, and a long-standing cohort study of persons with Barrett's. Determinants of genetic susceptibility to esophageal and gastric adenocarcinoma, e.g., genes involved in the biotransformation of xenobiotics, DNA repair, and immune response, are also being investigated. Polymorphisms in these genes may interact with environmental factors, such as in tobacco smoke or diet, in modifying risk in the general population. We are pursuing these issues in candidate gene studies as well as genome wide association studies that take advantage of the international BEACON consortium of esophageal cancer studies. Our eventual goal is to identify not only the major risk factors for esophageal adenocarcinoma, but the stage(s) of neoplastic progression at which they act. Such knowledge would be particularly helpful in designing primary and secondary prevention strategies.

Another major area of study in our research unit is occupational and environmental exposures (e.g., wood dust, formaldehyde), infectious diseases (e.g., Chlamydia pneumoniae, EBV) and genetic factors that may predispose to risk of lung and upper respiratory cancers, including sinonasal, nasopharyngeal, oral and laryngeal cancers.

Critical to all of the above epidemiologic studies are collaborations with laboratory-based investigators in the Divisions of Public Health Sciences and Human Biology at the FHCRC


FHCRC Faculty Homepage - for center news and research projects

Research Interests

Dr. Vaughan's research interests include environmental and genetic factors in the causation of cancer. Examples include studies of occupational exposure to formaldehyde and wood dust in relation to lung and nasopharyngeal cancer, obesity and use of selected medications in the etiology of esophageal and gastric adenocarcinoma, and genetic studies of cancers of the nasopharynx, lung, esophagus, stomach, and kidney. He is also involved in a long-term cohort study of persons with pre-cancerous lesions of the esophagus, in which cell cycle and genetic abnormalities are being used as intermediate markers to facilitate identifying environmental and host factors that increase risk of neoplastic progression.

For more information visit Dr. Vaughan's Research Site:


  • McIntire MG, Soucy G, Vaughan TL, Shahsafaei A, Odze RD. MUC2 Is a Highly Specific Marker of Goblet Cell Metaplasia in the Distal Esophagus and Gastroesophageal Junction. Am J Surg Pathol. Epub 2011 May 19. (in press)
  • Silvera SAN, Mayne ST, Risch HA, Gammon MD, Vaughan TL, Chow WH, Dubin JA, Dubrow R, Schoenberg J, Stanford JL, West AB, Rotterdam H, Blot WJ. Principal component analysis of dietary and lifestyle patterns in relation to risk of subtypes of esophageal and gastric cancer. Annals Epidemiology. 2011 Jul;21(7):543-50.
  • Bodelon C, Anderson GL, Rossing MA, Chlebowski RT, Ochs-Balcom HM, Vaughan TL. Hormonal factors and risks of esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma in postmenopausal women. Cancer Prev Res. 2011 Jun;4(6):840-50.
  • Li X, Blount PL, Vaughan TL, Reid BJ. Application of Biomarkers in Cancer Risk Management: Evaluation from Stochastic Clonal Evolutionary and Dynamic System Optimization Points of View. PLoS Computational Biology. 2011 Feb;7(2):e1001087
  • Lochhead P, Frank B, Hold GL, Rabkin CS, Ng M, Vaughan TL, Risch HA, Gammon MD, Lissowska J, Weck MN, Raum E, Muller H, Illig T, Klopp N, Dawson A, McColl KE, Brenner H, Chow WH, El-Omar EM. An association between a variation in the PSCA gene and upper gastrointestinal cancer in Caucasians. Gastroenterology. 2011 Feb;140(2):435-41.
  • Bhatti P, Newcomer L, Onstad L, Teschke K, Camp J, Morgan M, Vaughan TL. Wood dust exposure and risk of lung cancer. Occupational and Environmental Medicine. (Epub 2010 Nov 11; in press)
  • Merlo LMF, Shah NA, Li X, Blount PA, Vaughan TL, Reid BJ, Maley CC. A comprehensive survey of clonal diversity measures in Barrett's esophagus as biomarkers of progression to esophageal adenocarcinoma. Cancer Prevention Research, 2010 Nov; 3(11):1388-1397.
  • Cook MB, Kamangar F, Whiteman DC, Freedman ND, Gammon MD, Bernstein L, Brown LM, Risch HA, Ye Y, Sharp L, Wu AH, Ward MH, Giffen C, Casson AG, Abnet CC, Murray LJ, Corley DA, Nyrén O, Vaughan TL, Chow WH. Cigarette Smoking and Adenocarcinomas of the Esophagus and Esophagogastric Junction: A Pooled Analysis from the International BEACON Consortium. JNCI ,2010 Sep 8;102(17):1344-53.
  • *Thompson OM, Beresford SAA, Kirk EA, Vaughan TL. Increased Serum Leptin and Decreased Serum Adiponectin Levels and Risk of Barrett's Esophagus. Obesity 2010 Nov;18(11):2204-11.

  • Reid BJ, Li X, Galipeau PC, Vaughan TL. Barrett's Esophagus and Esophageal Adenocarcinoma: Time for a New Synthesis. Nature Cancer Reviews. 2010;10(2):87-101.

In The News

Study identifies 4 genetic variants linked to esophageal cancer and Barrett's esophagus
Eureka Alert, 10/13/2013

Genetic Variants and Esophageal Cancer Risk
Nature Genetics, 10/13/2013

Joint Supplements May Prevent Colorectal Cancer
Cancer Causes & Control, 06/01/2013