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research interests


The goal of Dr. De Vivo's research is to bolster the understanding of cancer etiology; specifically the relationship between genetic variations and risk of chronic diseases. Her multidisciplinary approach to understanding genetic susceptibility to endometrial cancer is best illustrated in a recent manuscript in PNAS. Additionally, her laboratory also collaborates in the characterization of potential cancer therapeutic agents such as GRN163L which targets Telomerase, and Dichloroacetate which targets aerobic glycolysis.

Since arriving at the Harvard Medical School,  Dr. De Vivo has analyzed samples from the participants of theNurses Health Study, the Health Professional Follow-up Study (HPFS), Women's Health Study (WHS), and the National Institutes of Health PLCO cohort. Additionally, she has evaluated participants from established case-control studies (Boston IVF, BWH's IVF Program and Reproductive Science Center of Boston, Sweden and Australia) to determine genetic susceptibility to multiple primary cancers, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, infertility, bladder cancer and endometrial cancer for which she received multiple grants from American Cancer Society and the NIH.

Dr. De Vivo has introduced modern high-throughput genotyping methods in order to build the capacity to handle larger numbers of samples per day. She has implemented standard molecular biological techniques to assess transcriptional effects and whole genome amplification technique that will provide sufficiently robust amplification of limited samples of genomic DNA. Most recently, she has validated and implemented the use of real time quantitative PCR to evaluate relative telomere length in large epidemiological studies. In a short period of time, the De Vivo laboratory has collaborated with numerous investigators at Harvard School of Public Health, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and National Institutes of Health in assessing telomere length in various cohort


Dr. De Vivo's interest in cancer prevention led her to pursue a graduate career studying molecular biology and epidemiology. While at Columbia she published several papers that related these two fields. Upon finishing her postdoctoral training at UC Berkeley and Stanford University that focused on more traditional molecular biology using mouse models to study carcinogenesis she came to Harvard Medical School in July of 1998 as an Instructor in Medicine in hopes of answering questions related to the genetic basis of human cancer. In 2000 she was promoted to Assistant Professor and continues to make contributions to the field of Molecular/Genetic Epidemiology through her teaching, research and committee responsibilities. In 2005, Dr. De Vivo was promoted to Associate Professor by the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health for her outstanding contributions to the institution.

Dr. De Vivo has a strong interest in women's health, specifically, breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer and more recently bladder cancer and infertility. She is currently funded through two grants to study genetic polymorphism in hormone-metabolizing genes and endometrial cancer and carcinogen metabolizing genes and bladder cancer. She has made considerable progress in addressing the relationship between steroid hormones and endometrial cancer risk within the Nurses' Health Study. Most notable was her discovery of a functional polymorphism in the promoter region of the progesterone receptor gene that was shown to be associated with increased risk for endometrial and breast cancer. She further showed that these risks are modified by environmental factors such as obesity. Laboratory techniques she has implemented provide the infrastructure for dissertation work of several students currently completing molecular epidemiology studies within the Nurses' Health Study.


Dr. De Vivo is an Associate Professor in the epidemiology department at the Harvard School of Public Health. Since the fall 1999, she has been the primary instructor for the graduate course, “Molecular Biology for Epidemiologists” (Epi249a). This is a fundamental molecular biology course with a laboratory section. Dr. De Vivo has also co-instructed Epi250b, “Molecular Epidemiology of Cancer and given lectures in “Biomarkers in Occupational and Environmental Health and “Introduction to Cancer Biology”.

Administrative Duties

Immaculata De Vivo is the current director of the Dana Farber Harvard Cancer Center High-throughput Genotyping Core. Dr. De Vivo serves as the Chair for the American Cancer Society's Clincial Research, Cancer Control and Epidemiology study section and an Ad Hoc grant reviewer for the NIH. She currently serves on the Doctoral Thesis committee for several candidates in the Department of Epidemiology with a concentration in Molecular Epidemiology. Dr. De Vivo is the founder and organizer of the Molecular/Genetic Epidemiology Journal Club. Dr. De Vivo is on the faculty planning group for the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention as a member she attends planning meetings and seminars. She is a member of the Committee on Molecular Epidemiology, Standing Committee for Interdisciplinary Concentration in Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology. As a member she contributes to curriculum planning. She is an Ad Hoc reviewer for several journals including, Cancer Causes and Control, Journal of the National Cancer Institute and Journal of Medical Genetics.




Immaculata De Vivo is an Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. De Vivo oversees a laboratory that primarily focuses on the discovery and characterization of genetic biological markers that may modify disease susceptibility in human populations. Biological markers of interest include single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), telomere length, and gene copy number variations (CNVs). Additionally, Dr. De Vivo is the director of the Dana Farber-Harvard Cancer Center High-Throughput Genotyping Core Facility.

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