Dr. Baylin is a leader in the field of epigenetics and has been investigating the genetic bases of cancer for most of his distinguished career. He was an original principal investigator on the epigenetic portion of the Cancer Genome Atlas project, whose goal was to identify the genomic changes that occur in cancer, and his research has provided valuable insights into promoter hypermethylation and its key role in human cancers. His efforts have shown that runaway methylation negatively affects the expression of tumor suppressor genes. These densely methylated genes have proved to be a useful marker for cancer risk assessment, early diagnosis, and prognostic monitoring, resulting in direct therapeutic value for clinical examination of DNA methylation markers. Currently, Dr. Baylin is Virginia and D. K. Ludwig Professor in Cancer Research, Associate Director of Cancer Center for Research, and Director Cancer Biology Program.
Dr. Baylin’s laboratory has also identified chronic inflammation as a rapid promoter of the widespread methylation of genes, potentially laying the groundwork for cancer. His investigation into how excess methylation could be prevented and the suppressor genes reactivated has important translational significance. Epigenetic therapy is the focus of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team that he and Dr. Peter Jones currently lead. Early in his career, when he was at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Dr. Baylin also characterized the biology and genetics of a rare hereditary thyroid cancer. Dr. Baylin received his medical degree from Duke University.