Oncology Experts

Kerstin Heselmeyer-haddad

Staff Scientist
Genetics Branch, CCR
National Cancer Institute
United States of America


Dr. Heselmeyer-Haddad studied biology at the University of Oldenburg in Germany and obtained a Masters degree in biology in 1990. She received her Ph.D. degree from the Department of Tumor Biology at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden in 1996 (thesis mentor: Professor Gert Auer; thesis title: 'Genomic changes defining the progression of human colorectal and cervical tumors'). Dr. Heselmeyer-Haddad then joined the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Ried at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) as a postdoctoral fellow. At NHGRI she continued her research, following up on her original discovery (made during her graduate studies) that the vast majority of cervical carcinomas harbor a gain of the long arm of chromosome 3. She developed a fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) probe for a candidate gene in the region of amplification, the gene for the human telomerase RNA component (TERC) and observed that cervical dysplasias containing a TERC gain persisted or progressed, while lesions without this change were likely to regress. Following the move of Dr. Ried's group to the NCI's Center for Cancer Research in 1999, Dr. Heselmeyer-Haddad was appointed as a staff scientist. During her time at NCI, Dr. Heselmeyer-Haddad has published several seminal studies on the TERC test as a significant diagnostic marker in cervical cytology using a variety of patient materials, showing good sensitivity and specificity of the test for the detection of progressive disease. Dr. Heselmeyer-Haddad has also worked on the discovery of early detection and progression markers in other cancers, including breast and prostate cancer. She recently developed a novel technique of multiplexing FISH probes for tumor-specific genes to gain new insights into tumor heterogeneity and clonal development by enumerating up to 10 probes within the same cell. Specifically, she used this technique to shed light on the transition from ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) to invasive ductal carcinomas (IDC) in synchronous lesions of the breast and to discern non-progressive from progressive cancers of the prostate. Dr. Heselmeyer-Haddad is currently working on a multiplex FISH study to understand the clonal relationship of synchronous CIN3 and invasive cervical carcinomas and is following up on her TERC studies, analyzing low-grade Pap smears with underlying high-grade histology to validate the usefulness of the test in this important patient group.

Research Interest

Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), cancer genetics (cervix, breast, prostate, colon-rectum), 3q test, multiplex FISH single cell assay, Cervical Cancer 3q as a diagnostic marker in cervical dysplasias, Multiplex FISH approach to investigate clonal evolution in cervical precancerous and cancerous lesions, Breast Cancer Multiplex FISH assay to evaluate clonality and tumor heterogeneity of synchronous DCIS and IDC, Prostate Cancer Multiplex FISH reveals insights into clonal development in non-progressive and progressive prostate cancer and indicates loss of PTEN as a marker of poor prognosis.


  • Detection of genomic amplification of the human telomerase gene TERC, a potential marker for triage of women with HPV-positive, abnormal Pap smears.

  • Genomic amplification of the human telomerase gene (TERC) in pap smears predicts the development of cervical cancer.

  • Gain of chromosome 3q defines the transition from severe dysplasia to invasive carcinoma of the uterine cervix.

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