Skip to main content

Karen Curtin, Ph.D., M.Stat

Languages spoken: English, Spanish, Modern Greek (1453-)

Academic Information

Departments: Internal Medicine - Research Associate Professor, Family & Preventive Medicine - Adjunct Associate Professor, Ophthalmology/Visual Sciences - Adjunct Associate Professor

Divisions: Epidemiology, Public Health

Academic Office Information

(801) 585-5320

Huntsman Cancer Institute Research South
Utah Population Database (UPDB)
2000 Circle of Hope, Room: Rm 1511
Salt Lake City, UT 84112

Research Interests

  • Gene-Environment Interaction
  • Cancer Epidemiology with Emphasis on Colorectal Cancer
  • Environmental Pollution
  • Epigenetics in Cancer
  • Age-related macular degeneration and co-segregating diseases

Karen Curtin (Ph.D., M.Stat.) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Epidemiology and adjunct Associate Professor in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Utah School of Medicine and the John A. Moran Eye Center. Dr. Curtin serves as Interim Director of the Utah Population Database (UPDB), a unique shared resource housed at the University of Utah's Huntsman Cancer Institute where she is affiliated with Pedigree and Population Resource, the group that administers and supports research using the database. She is a Co-Investigator with the Steele Center for Translational Medicine at the Moran Eye Center and is adjunct faculty in the Division of Public Health where she serves on the Master of Biostatistics committee. Through her many affiliations Dr. Curtin, a genetic epidemiologist and population-based scientist, collaborates widely with investigators across the University of Utah Health Sciences Center, Huntsman Cancer Institute, Intermountain Healthcare, and other academic institutions. Dr. Curtin is a Huntsman Cancer Institute investigator and member of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences program, with a keen interest in the interaction of genetic, environmental, and molecular risk factors in the development of cancer and predisposing conditions.

Her wide array of research interests and experience in research infrastructure and project development have resulted several in cross-disciplinary collaborations. Focused on preventive and translational research, she is currently investigating mammographic breast density in relation to interval breast cancer and endocrine therapy-induced changes in breast density in a statewide cohort of women. Dr. Curtin is conducting population-based research to elucidate the genetic underpinnings of myeloid disorders and malignancies utilizing multigenerational, high-risk pedigrees unique to Utah. She established ongoing and productive collaborations with renowned translational and clinical investigators in age-related macular degeneration and exfoliation syndrome/glaucoma and associated comorbidities. She continues to pursue population-based investigations in gastrointestinal cancers with colleagues at the University of Utah and Mayo Clinic, and previously partnered with College of Pharmacy and Intermountain Healthcare to investigate a statewide cohort of amphetamine-type stimulant users to examine future incidence of Parkinson's disease.

Dr. Curtin received her PhD in biomedical informatics with an emphasis in genetic epidemiology from the University of Utah, where she was awarded the John D. Morgan Fellowship Award in Biomedical Informatics. Following post-doctoral training in molecular and risk factor epidemiology at Utah, Dr. Curtin received a faculty appointment in the Department of Internal Medicine. Prior to pursuing an academic career, she was a Master's level biostatistician on several large, population-based cancer studies. A prolific and extensively published researcher, Dr. Curtin is principal investigator of several internally and externally funded studies. She was invited to speak at the prestigious Lindberg Society Symposium at the 2018 World Ophthalmology Congress and recently received an award from the BrightFocus(R) Foundation's National Glaucoma Research Program to study prognostic factors and predictive markers of progression to exfoliation glaucoma in exfoliation syndrome.

Research Statement

As a cancer and genetic epidemiologist I serve as the Interim Director of Pedigree & Population Resource, the group that maintains the Utah Population Database (UPDB), a shared resource at the Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI). For nearly 40 years, the UPDB has been a cornerstone of support for genetic and risk factor research into many cancer-related phenotypes. Currently, more than 290 active projects are supported by the UPDB resource. In addition to pursuing my own research interests in colorectal and breast cancer, I collaborate with investigators across the University of Utah Health Sciences Center to facilitate research using the UPDB which includes cancer registry information, vital records, and medical records for ~11 million individuals of whom many link to genealogy records. I am an HCI investigator and actively participate in the Cancer Control and Population Sciences program, with a keen interest in the interaction of genetic and environmental risk factors in the development of cancers, including syndromic constellations of cancers, using the unique research resources available in Utah. My experience in research infrastructure and project development have resulted in several highly productive collaborations within HCI and the University of Utah School of Medicine. As my publications demonstrate, I possess the skills to collaborate successfully on a project to identify determine the relationship between Li-Fraumeni Syndrome (LFS) and Leiomyosarcoma (LMS), including TP53 genotype-phenotype correlation to investigate the hypothesis that LMS risk in the population is significantly higher in LFS patients. I have both the academic training and experience in development of methods and approaches to assess genetic, familial, and population-level risk factors in the development of multifactorial diseases such as syndromic cancers that cluster in pedigrees

Education History

Doctoral Training University of Utah School of Medicine, Clinical and Translational Track: Genetic Epidemiology
Biomedical Informatics
Graduate Training University of Utah, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Econometrics and Statistics
Undergraduate University of Utah, College of Business
Economics, Magna Cum Laude