- MS, Public Health at Medical University of Lodz, Poland in 2003
- PhD, Biomedical Sciences - Nutritional Epigenetics at Medical University of Lodz, Poland in 2007
- Post-Doc, Cancer Epigenetics at McGill University, Montreal, Canada in 2013
Awards & Honors
- Principal’s Award for Research Excellence from Medical University of Lodz, Poland, 2013
- McGill MedStar Award for Research Excellence from Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, 2012
- Principal’s Award for Research Excellence from Medical University of Lodz, Poland, 2010
- Principal’s Award for outstanding PhD thesis from Medical University of Lodz, Poland, 2008
- Young Investigator Award from European Society for the Study of Purine and Pyrimidine Metabolism in Man, 2005
- Best University Diploma from Faculty of Health Sciences, Medical University of Lodz, Poland, 2003
Activities & Memberships
- Editorial Board of British Journal of Pharmacology (Editor) from British Pharmacological Society, 2011 - Present
- Member (Fellow) from British Pharmacological Society, 2011 - Present
- Member (Fellow) from American Society of Human Genetics, 2011 - Present
- Member (Fellow) from American Association for Cancer Research, 2009 - Present
- Member (Fellow) from Polish Biochemical Society , 2006 - Present
- Research Advisory Council (Member) from McGill University, 2010 - 2011
- Epigenetics refers to the molecular events controlling gene expression that are independent of changes in the underlying DNA sequence. These events include DNA methylation, covalent histone modifications, and non-coding RNA-related mechanisms. Epigenetic modifications of DNA have been shown to contribute to the etiology of chronic diseases like cancer. However, epigenetic changes are dynamic and serve as an adaptive mechanism to a wide variety of environmental factors including diet. My laboratory is focused on two major areas:
(1) Epigenetic mechanisms mediating the beneficial effects of vitamins and polyphenols in cancer prevention, cancer therapy, and type 2 diabetes.
A number of studies suggest that bioactive compounds present in food and herbs can modulate gene expression by targeting different elements of the epigenetic machinery, especially DNA methylation. The fundamental question driving my research is whether natural compounds can differentially affect DNA methylation states to activate tumor suppressor genes and silence cancer-causing oncogenes. My lab uses genome-wide approaches in cell and animal models of ovarian, breast, and liver cancer to study epigenetic actions of vitamins and polyphenols. Our goal is to determine whether and how these natural compounds reverse epigenetic patterns associated with carcinogenesis to establish their potential preventive role in cancer. We are also exploring if epigenetic mechanisms regulated by bioactives can sensitize cancer cells to traditional chemotherapies. Furthermore, we are exploring diet effects and underlying mechanisms in type 2 diabetes as one of the major risk factors for liver cancer.
(2) Identifying and validating epigenetic biomarkers for solid tumors including ovarian, breast, and liver cancers.
Cancer biomarkers are valuable for risk prediction, early detection, prognosis, and assessing responses to therapy. My lab is testing whether DNA methylation profiles can be used as cancer biomarkers. For this, we examine global methylation patterns in tissue specimens at different stages of cancer. By coupling this information to the analysis of clinical data and responsiveness to treatment regimens, we can evaluate these patterns as candidate biomarkers. In order to increase the clinical applications of diagnostic biomarkers, we are also examining methylation patterns in easily accessible sources of DNA such as blood borne cells. Once we have identified and validated epigenetic biomarkers, we will explore the relationship between vitamins or polyphenol intake with cancer incidence in prospective cohort studies.
During my PhD, I explored epigenetic effects of bioactive food components such as retinoic acid, vitamin D and resveratrol in cancer prevention and support of chemotherapy with nucleoside analogues. We discovered that these natural compounds reverse DNA methylation-mediated silencing of tumour suppressor genes causing impairment in cancer growth through regulation of the epigenetic machinery. My work as a postdoctoral student in Dr. Moshe Szyf’s lab at McGill University was focused on mapping the hepatic cancer epigenome in order to establish an epigenomic-transcriptomic signature and a functional map of this signature. We defined the role of a methyl-CpG binding domain protein 2 (MBD2) in the hepatic cancer epigenome and determined whether MBD2 knockdown can become a new therapy for liver cancer. Further study led to discovery of a set of novel cancer candidate genes and proved their functional role in different types of cancer and in vivo. This innovative research has the potential to change liver cancer treatment.
- Stefanska B, Suderman M, Machnes Z, Bhattacharyya B, Hallet M, Szyf M. Transcription onset of genes critical in liver carcinogenesis and metastasis is epigenetically regulated by methylated DNA binding protein MBD2. Carcinogenesis 2013, Aug 16 Epub ahead of print, doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgt273.
- Stefanska B, Bouzelmat A, Huang J, Suderman M, Hallett M, Han ZG, Al-Mahtab M, Akbar MF, Raqib R, Szyf M. Discovery and validation of DNA hypomethylation biomarkers for liver cancer using HRM-specific probes. PLoS One 2013, Aug 7;8(8):e68439. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068439.
- Lubecka-Pietruszewska K, Kaufman-Szymczyk A, Stefanska B, Fabianowska-Majewska K. Folic acid enforces DNA methylation-mediated transcriptional silencing of PTEN, APC and RARbeta2 tumour suppressor genes in breast cancer. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2013; 430: 623-628.
- Stefanska B, Karlic H, Varga F, Fabianowska-Majewska K, Haslberger AG. Epigenetic mechanisms in anti-cancer actions of bioactive food components – the implications in cancer prevention. Br J Pharmacol 2012; 167: 279-297.
- Stefanska B, Vinken M, Szyf M. Epigenetics in toxicology: the implications of epigenetic alterations driven by external exposures for human health. ALTEX Proceedings, 8th World Congress, 2012; 1: 173-185.
- Stefanska B. Curcumin ameliorates hepatic fibrogenesis in type 2 diabetes mellitus- insights into its mechanisms of action. Br J Pharmacol 2012; 166: 2209-2211.
- Stefanska B, Salamé P, Bednarek A, Fabianowska-Majewska K. Comparative effects of retinoic acid, vitamin D and resveratrol alone and in combination with adenosine analogues on methylation and expression of PTEN tumour suppressor gene in breast cancer cells. Brit J Nutr 2012; 107: 781-790.
- Stefanska B, Huang J, Bhattacharyya B, Suderman M, Hallet M, Han ZG, Szyf M. Definition of the landscape of promoter DNA hypomethylation in liver cancer. Cancer Res 2011; 71: 5891-5903.
- Stefanska B, Rudnicka K, Bednarek A, Fabianowska-Majewska K. Hypomethylation and induction of retinoic acid receptor beta 2 (RARbeta2) gene by concurrent action of adenosine analogues and natural compounds in breast cancer cells. Eur J Pharmacol 2010; 638: 47-53.
- Gach K, Piestrzeniewicz M, Fichna J, Stefanska B, Szemraj J, Janecka A. Opioid-induced regulation of mu-opioid receptor gene expression in the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line. Biochem Cell Biol 2008; 86: 217-226.
Books, Chapters & Monograph Publications
- Stefanska BM, Fabianowska-Majewska K. Effects of dietary natural compounds on DNA methylation related to cancer chemoprevention and anticancer epigenetic therapy. Chapter 11, p. 141-155. Haslberger A (ed.), Gressler S (co-ed.). 2010, Epigenetics and Human Health. Linking hereditary, environmental and nutritional aspects. WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co.KgaA, Weinheim.