Barbara Stefanska

Educational Background

  • MPH, 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

  • Invited Seminar Speaker, Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology (IRDB)/Oncology Seminar at Imperial College London, London, UK. Epigenetic effects of berry polyphenols on oncogenic signalling in breast cancer, 2015
  • Invited Speaker, Mead Johnson Pediatric Nutrition Institute Scientific Lecture Series. Epigenomics: a new bridge between environmental exposures in prenatal/early life and disease onset later in life, 2014
  • Invited Speaker, 4th International Breast Cancer Prevention Symposium (IBCN). Epigenetic mechanisms of dietary polyphenols in cancer prevention. Session: The molecular bases of nutritional influence on breast cancer prevention, 2014
  • Principal's Award for Research Excellence from Medical University of Lodz, Poland, 2013
  • Invited speaker at IUNS 20th International Congress of Nutrition, Spain. Parallel Symposium: Public health genomics in individualized nutrition, 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
  • Award for Best Poster at Gliwice Scientific Meetings, Poland, 2005
  • Best University Diploma from Faculty of Health Sciences, Medical University of Lodz, Poland, 2003

Activities & Memberships

  • Member, Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society, 2015 - Present 
  • Member, Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, Prevention Group, 2014 - Present 
  • Research Advisory Council (Member), from McGill University, 2010 - 2011
  • Member (Fellow), American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, 2013 - Present
  • Member (Fellow), from American Society of Human Genetics, 2011 - Present
  • Member (Fellow), from British Pharmacological Society, 2011 - Present
  • Editorial Board of British Journal of Pharmacology (Editor), from British Pharmacological Society, 2011 - Present
  • Member (Fellow), from American Association for Cancer Research, 2009 - Present
  • Member (Fellow), from Polish Biochemical Society, 2006 - Present


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 (DNA methylation) have been shown to contribute to the etiology of chronic diseases with cancer at the forefront. DNA methylation is dynamic and serves as an adaptive mechanism to a wide variety of environmental factors including diet. My laboratory is focused on two major areas:

(1) Understanding the epigenetic mechanisms of dietary polyphenols such as resveratrol from grapes, pterostilbene from blueberries, epigallocatechin gallate from green tea and coffee polyphenols, in cancer prevention and therapy.
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-driving genes. My lab uses genome-wide approaches in cell and animal models of liver, and breast cancer to study epigenetic mechanisms of polyphenols' action. 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 anti-cancer therapeutics.

(2) Identifying and validating epigenetic biomarkers for solid tumors including liver cancer (project approved by the NCI Cohort Consortium, which gives us access to clinical samples from various cohorts in the world).
Cancer biomarkers are valuable for risk prediction, early detection, prognosis, and assessing responses to therapy. My lab is evaluating DNA methylation profiles as potential cancer biomarkers. In order to increase clinical applications, we examine blood samples as easily accessible source of DNA. Our focus is to delineate genome-wide methylation patterns in blood samples collected before diagnosis (risk predictors) and at different stages of cancer (early detection and prognostic). By coupling this information to clinical data and responsiveness to treatment regimens, we can evaluate these patterns as candidate biomarkers. Once we have identified and validated epigenetic biomarkers, we will explore the relationship between polyphenol intake and cancer incidence in prospective cohort studies.
Please find more information at

Discovery Publications

  • Cheishvili D*, Stefanska B*, Yi C, Li CC, Yu P, Arakelian A, Tanvir I, Khan HA, Rabbani SA, Szyf M. (2015) A common promoter hypomethylation signature in invasive breast, liver and prostate cancer cell lines reveals novel targets involved in cancer invasiveness. Oncotarget. 6:33253-33268. (*first co-authorship).
  • Remely M, Stefanska B, Lovrecic L, Magnet U, Haslberger AG. (2015) Nutriepigenomics: the role of nutrition in epigenetic control of human diseases. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 18:328-333.
  • Lubecka-Pietruszewska K, Kaufman-Szymczyk A, Stefanska B, Cebula-Obrzut B, Smolewski P, Fabianowska-Majewska K. (2015) Sulforaphane alone and in combination with clofarabine epigenetically regulates expression of DNA methylation-silenced tumour suppressor genes in human breast cancer cells. J Nutrigenet Nutrigenomics. 8:91-101.
  • Stefanska B, MacEwan D. (2015) Epigenetics and therapy. Br J Pharmacol. 172:2701-2704 (Review - Editorial).
  • Shukeir N*, Stefanska B*, Parashar S, Chik F, Arakelian A, Szyf M, Rabbani SA. (2015) Pharmacological methyl group donors block skeletal metastasis in vitro and in vivo. Br J Pharmacol. 172:2769-2781  (*first co-authorship).
  • Henagan, T.M.†, Stefanska, B., Fang, Z., Navard, A.M. , Ye, J., Lenard, N.L. and Devarshi, P.P. (2015) Sodium butyrate epigenetically modulates high fat diet-induced skeletal muscle mitochondrial adaptation, obesity and insulin resistance through nucleosome positioning. Br J Pharmacol. 172:2782-2798.
  • Stefanska B, Cheishvili D, Suderman M, Arakelian A, Huang J, Hallett M, Han ZG, Al-Mahtab M, Akbar SMF, Khan WA, Raqib R, Tanvir I, Khan HA, Rabbani SA, Szyf M. (2014) Genome-wide study of hypomethylated and induced genes in liver cancer patients unravels novel anticancer targets. Clin Cancer Res. 20:3118-3132.
  • Lubecka-Pietruszewska K, Kaufman-Szymczyk A, Stefanska B, Cebula-Obrzut B, Smolewski P, Fabianowska-Majewska K. (2014) Clofarabine, a novel adenosine analogue, reactivates DNA methylation-silenced tumour suppressor genes and inhibits cell growth in breast cancer cells. Eur J Pharmacol. 723:276-287.
  • Lubecka-Pietruszewska, K., Kaufman-Szymczyk, A., Stefanska, B., Fabianowska-Majewska, K. (2013) Folic acid enforces DNA methylation-mediated transcriptional silencing of PTEN, APC, and RARbeta2 tumour suppressor genes in breast cancer. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 430:623-28.
  • Stefanska B, Suderman M, Machnes Z, Bhattacharyya B, Hallet M, Szyf M. (2013) Transcription onset of genes critical in liver carcinogenesis and metastasis is epigenetically regulated by methylated DNA binding protein MBD2. Carcinogenesis. 34:2738-2749.
  • Stefanska, B., Bouzemat, A., Huang, J., Suderman, M., Hallett, M., Han, Z.G., Al-Mahtab, M., Akbar, M.F., Raqib, R., Szyf, M. (2013) Discovery and validation of DNA hypomethylation biomarkers for liver cancer using HRM-specific probes. PLoS One. 7(8):e68439. doi: 10.1371.journal.pone.0068439.
  • Stefanska B, Vinken M, Szyf M. (2012) Epigenetics in toxicology: the implications of epigenetic alterations driven by external exposures for human health. ALTEX Proceedings, 8th World Congress. 1:173-185.
  • Stefanska B. (2012) Curcumin ameliorates hepatic fibrogenesis in type 2 diabetes mellitus- insights into its mechanisms of action. Br J Pharmacol. 166:2209-2211.
  • Stefanska, B., Salamé, P., Bednarek, A., Fabianowska-Majewska, K. (2012) 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. 107:781-790.
  • Stefanska B, Karlic H, Varga F, Fabianowska-Majewska K, Haslberger AG. (2012) Epigenetic mechanisms in anti-cancer actions of bioactive food components – the implications in cancer prevention. Br J Pharmacol. 167:279-297.
  • Stefanska, B., Huang, J., Bhattacharyya, B., Suderman, M., Hallet, M., Han, Z.G., Szyf, M. (2011) Definition of the landscape of promoter DNA hypomethylation in liver cancer. Cancer Res. 71:5891-5903.
  • Stefanska, B., Rudnicka, K., Bednarek, A., Fabianowska-Majewska, K. (2010) 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. 638:47-53.
  • Gach, K., Piestrzeniewicz, M., Fichna, J., Stefanska, B., Szemraj, J., Janecka, A. (2008) Opioid-induced regulation of mu-opioid receptor gene expression in the MCF-7 breast cancer cell line. Biochem Cell Biol. 86:217-226.

Books, Chapters & Monograph Publications

  • Stefanska, B.M., Fabianowska-Majewska, K. (2010) Effects of dietary natural compounds on DNA methylation related to cancer chemoprevention and anticancer epigenetic therapy. In: Epigenetics and Human Health. Linking hereditary, environmental and nutritional aspects. Haslberger, A and Gressler, S. Ed(s). Ch.11. Pp.141-155. WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH &Co., KgaA, Weinheim.


NUTR315 Fundamentals of Nutrition
NUTR330 Diet Selection and Planning
NUTR365 Life Cycle Nutrition
NUTR424 Communication Techniques in Foods and Nutrition
NUTR590 Epigenetics, Nutrition and Exercise
NUTR634 Nutrition and Cancer Prevention

International Programs & Activities

International Breast Cancer and Nutrition Program (IBCN project), (led by Dr. Sophie Lelievre and Dr. Connie Weaver, Purdue University)

The Cohort Consortium (NCI): a partnership formed by NCI to address the need for large-scale collaborations to pool the large quantity of data and biospecimens necessary to conduct a wide range of cancer studies. Our affiliated project: "DNA methylation biomarkers of primary liver cancer risk"

Barbara Stefanska

Assistant Professor

Office: HANS 109
Phone: 765.494.4401
Fax: 765.494.0906
Web site

Department of Nutrition Science, 700 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2059(765) 494-8228, Fax: (765) 494-0674

© 2016 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by: Nutrition Science

If you have trouble accessing this page because of a disability, please contact Purdue Marketing and Media at