Charis  Eng,  MD, PhD

Charis Eng, MD, PhD

Department Chair

Sondra J. and Stephen R. Hardis Endowed Chair in Cancer Genomic Medicine

Lerner Research Institute, 9500 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44195
Phone: (216) 444-3440


Using multidisciplinary approaches, the Eng lab identifies and characterizes genes that cause susceptibility to inherited cancer syndromes, determines their role in sporadic carcinogenesis and performs molecular epidemiologic analyses as they relate to clinical applications. Using this framework, the lab examines PTEN and SDH in Cowden syndrome, which has a high risk of breast, thyroid and endometrial cancers, and SDH-related heritable neuroendocrine neoplasias. The lab examines PTEN, encoding a dual specificity phosphatase on 10q23.3, in Cowden and other hamartoma syndromes, as well as in isolated cancers. The lab pursues diverse mechanisms of PTEN inactivation for various sporadic cancers, including those of the breast and thyroid. Eng lab researchers explore gene-gene interactions and gene-environment interactions as relevant to ultimate clinical outcome. As such, a major focus of the Eng lab is to utilize multi-disciplinary approaches -- genomic modifiers, immune, microbiome, interrogation of cell fate and cellular phenotype, mouse models, etc.-- to dissect the mechanism of PTEN alterations leading to cancer predisposition or to the seemingly disparate autism spectrum disorder. This aim of this fundamental research is to not only resolve the mechanism, but also to identify novel targets for therapy and prevention.

Lay Summary

An average 10% of all cancers are due to strong alterations in genes that predispose individuals to multiple cancers, often at young ages, and that can be inherited and passed on to their children.  Everyone is born with genes, whether “good” ones or “bad” ones.  Scientists estimate that an individual is born with an average of 6 “bad” genes that predispose to serious illness, such as cancer.  The Eng lab carries out patient-relevant research to increase genetic and genomic information resulting in intimate knowledge of human genes, which allows the creation of a roadmap for prevention and can lead to graceful aging.  The Eng lab’s cancer genetics and genomics research fulfills the adage “Knowledge is Power,” empowering patients to promote health and well-being for themselves and their families.

07/20/2021 |  

Study Establishes Maternal Genetics as Modulator of Autism Risk

A recent preclinical study led by Charis Eng, MD, PhD, has shown for the first time that maternal genetics alone may be a risk factor for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in offspring. Published in Translational Psychiatry, the results suggest that genes predisposing women to inflammation may affect fetal neurodevelopment and lead to ASD-related traits in their offspring. 

07/08/2021 |  

Predicting Efficacy and Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines in Cancer Patients

Charis Eng, MD, PhD, was recently named one of the 34 caregivers selected to receive a July 2021 Caregiver Catalyst Grant. The Caregiver Catalyst Grants program pools the gifts from thousands of generous Cleveland Clinic donors into a fund allocated to support caregivers’ innovative ideas and has awarded more than $4.6 million since its inception in 2018.

05/18/2021 |  

Breast Microbiome-Immune Interactions May Influence Breast Cancer

A recent study by Cleveland Clinic researchers suggests that interactions between the breast microbiome and local immune responses may influence breast cancer development and progression. Published in Genome Medicine, the findings lay the foundation for future investigation into the factors associated with breast cancer initiation, which will help facilitate the development of improved detection and prevention strategies.

04/20/2021 |  

Cancer Genetics Researchers Receive VeloSano Awards

Charis Eng, MD, PhD, Dennis Lal, PhD, and Harry (Adrian) Lesmana, MD, were recently named recipients of VelaSano research awards. VeloSano is Cleveland Clinic’s flagship cancer research fundraising initiative, which has raised more than $24 million since its inaugural year in 2014. Drs. Eng, Lal and Lesmana will receive $125,000 over two years for their projects.

03/03/2021 |  

Uncovering the Link between the Gut and Autoimmunity in Patients with PTEN Hamartoma Tumor Syndrome

A research team led by Charis Eng, MD, PhD, has uncovered a potential link between autoimmunity in patients with PTEN hamartoma tumor syndrome (PHTS) and the community of microbial organisms in the gastrointestinal tract (known as the gut microbiome). Published in JCO Precision Oncology, the pilot clinical study suggests that the gut microbiome, regulated in part by its interaction with key immune system molecules, may contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases and immune dysregulation in PHTS patients.

02/24/2021 |  

Microbiome Reveals Clues to Male Infertility

A multidisciplinary research team at Cleveland Clinic has discovered a new aspect of male infertility that may provide future treatment options for couples struggling with infertility. Published in European Urology, the pilot study represents the first comprehensive investigation into the role of the microbiome (the community of microbes existing within specific niches of the body) in male infertility.

12/01/2020 |  

Breastfeeding Cuts Ovarian Cancer Risk in BRCA Mutation Carriers

A history of breastfeeding is associated with a 23 percent reduction in the risk of ovarian cancer among women who carry BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations, according to findings published in Gynecologic Oncology.

10/05/2020 |  

GMI Fellow Wins Crile Research Fellowship Award

Takae Brewer, MD, cancer genomic medicine clinical fellow in the lab of Charis Eng, MD, PhD, received the Crile Research Fellowship Award for 2021-2022.

10/05/2020 |  

GMI Graduate Students Win 2020 Lerner Research Institute Awards for Excellence

Lerner Research Institute’s Research Education and Training Center recently announced the recipients of the 2020 Lerner Research Institute Awards for Excellence, which recognize staff, students and trainees for their outstanding scientific achievements. Two Genomic Medicine Institute graduate students received awards.

09/11/2020 |  

New Grant to Investigate Genomic Alterations Influencing PTEN Hamartoma Tumor Syndrome

Charis Eng, MD, PhD, was awarded a two-year, nearly $680 thousand grant from the PTEN Research Foundation to investigate if and how alterations in the genome influence clinical outcomes in individuals with PTEN hamartoma tumor syndrome (PHTS).

05/28/2020 |  

WWP1 Inactivation of PTEN Drives Cancer Predisposition

An international team of researchers co-led by Cleveland Clinic have identified why patients without PTEN mutations may still experience the high cancer risk associated with PTEN hamartoma tumor syndrome (PHTS).

05/05/2020 |  

Germline Genomic Profiles of Children, Adolescents and Young Adults with Solid Tumors Inform Management and Treatment

A new Cleveland Clinic study demonstrates the importance of genetics evaluation and genetic testing for children, adolescents and young adults with solid tumor cancers. The study was published today in Nature Communications.

04/21/2020 |  

GMI Postdoc Wins 2020 Lower Award

Lamis Yehia, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Charis Eng, MD, PhD, was named the first place winner of Cleveland Clinic’s 2020 Lower Award in the clinical category.

02/03/2020 |  

Clarifying Genetic Autism Risk in PTEN Patients

Cleveland Clinic researchers have identified for the first time an explanation of why patients with identical PTEN mutations often have vastly different clinical presentations.

09/26/2019 |  

Predicting Cancer Versus Autism Risk in PTEN Patients

In a new study published in American Journal of Human Genetics, a team of researchers led by Charis Eng, MD, PhD, Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute, identified a metabolite that may predict whether individuals with PTEN mutations will develop cancer or autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

08/16/2019 |  

Genetic Status and Clinical Management of Bilateral Pheochromocytoma

While many tumors of the adrenal gland are benign (noncancerous), they can cause life-threatening disease due to an overproduction of “fight-or-flight” hormones. One such tumor type is called pheochromocytoma.

07/23/2019 |  

Gray Foundation Awards $1.6M for Breast Cancer Research

Charis Eng, MD, PhD, was awarded a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the Gray Foundation to examine how bacteria, fungi and viruses in breast tissue (known as the breast microbiome) interact with the immune system to influence breast cancer growth and progression. Her multidisciplinary collaborators include Stephen Grobmyer, MD, Section Head of Surgical Oncology, Director of Breast Services, and Jacob Scott, MD, DPhil, Department of Translational Hematology and Oncology Research.

05/16/2019 |  

Visualizing PTEN: Seeing Mutations Differently

Germline mutations of the tumor suppressor gene PTEN are associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Cowden and other syndromes that predispose patients to a broad range of cancers. Charis Eng, MD, PhD, Genomic Medicine Institute, has dedicated much of her career to uncovering and investigating these genetic links.

04/15/2019 |  

The Microbiome of the Inflamed Aorta: What Can We Discern?

Noninfectious aortitis is usually a result of primary systemic large-vessel vasculitis (LVV) such as giant cell arteritis (GCA) or Takayasu’s arteritis (TAK).

01/03/2019 |  

FDA Recognizes PTEN Variant Criteria

Recently, for the first time, the FDA formally recognized the process that led to curation of a public database containing information about genes, gene variants and their relationship to disease as a source of valid scientific evidence that can be used to support clinical validity in premarket submissions. Among the gene variants listed in this database are variants of PTEN, a highly penetrant cancer susceptibility gene.

10/18/2018 |  

Dr. Charis Eng Receives Medal of Honor from American Cancer Society

Charis Eng, MD, PhD, Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute, has received the American Cancer Society’s Medal of Honor, the organization’s highest award. An internationally recognized physician-scientist in the cancer genetics field, Dr. Eng is among five honorees to receive the award at the ceremony in Washington, D.C. on October 18.

07/22/2021 |  

GMI Researchers Receive Awards Promoting Diversity in Science

Feixiong Cheng, PhD, and Jessica Castrillon Lal, an adviser-graduate student pair, and Iris Nira Smith, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Charis Eng, MD, PhD, recently received awards to advance diversity and inclusion in science.

01/09/2019 |  

Five Researchers Win Annual Fund Grants

Cleveland Clinic recently announced the 29 projects selected for 2019 grant funding as part of the Annual Fund program, including five led by Lerner Research Institute researchers.