Staff Scientist Falk Retires After 38 Years at NCI
Roni Falk, staff scientist in the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch (MEB), retired from the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics in December, after 38 years of distinguished service to the National Cancer Institute. She played a pivotal role in numerous epidemiologic studies that improved the understanding of circulating hormones and cancer risk.
“Roni was a founding member of MEB and shared her expertise in hormonal carcinogenesis, hormone measurements and her particular skills in developing robust quality control plans for many of our projects,” noted MEB chief Dr. Christian Abnet. “I relied heavily on Roni when she served as the branch coordinator for MEB’s first site visit in 2018. Roni is a lifelong learner and her wide scientific interests are evident in her active participation in several DCEG working groups. I’ll miss Roni’s contributions to our work and her keen insights gleaned from the early days of DCEG.”
Throughout her career, Falk made critical contributions to research in DCEG often as part of international consortia, including the Male Breast Cancer Pooling Project, Pooled Analysis of Smoking and Breast Cancer Risk and the Biomarkers and Breast Cancer Risk Prediction in Younger Women.
Critical to the success of these endeavors was the emergence of the study of biomarkers. Falk guided the design, implementation, analysis and interpretation of laboratory studies of estrogens, androgens, growth factors, vitamin D, cytokines, angiogenic factors and adipokines. She played a key role in developing methods to assess the validity and reproducibility of assays to measure estrogen, androgen and progesterone metabolites using state-of-the-art technology and statistical approaches.
In 2009, Falk received an NIH Merit Award in recognition of this work. These methods have since been used as a model for evaluating the feasibility of new molecular markers.
Falk made significant efforts to advance the field of epidemiology and is an author of more than 140 peer-reviewed journal articles, commentaries and reviews.
In addition to her research contributions, she served on the faculty of the DCEG molecular epidemiology course and was a dedicated mentor committed to the growth and success of her trainees.
“When I joined DCEG as a postdoctoral fellow I had the good fortune of working with Roni on a nested case-control study of estrogen metabolism and breast cancer risk,” reflected Dr. Gretchen Gierach, chief and senior investigator in the Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch. “Over the years, she taught me many important lessons about integrating quality control regimens into biomarker studies. While she will be sorely missed, I know the wisdom Roni has imparted will be long-lasting in DCEG and beyond.”
“In my time as a trainee, and now as a senior scientist in the division, Roni inspired each of us with her meticulousness and innate understanding of the data,” said Dr. Mia Gaudet, senior scientist in the Trans-Divisional Research Program. “She is a treasured colleague and surrogate mother to many of us. The world of cancer epidemiology is indebted to her.”
Following her retirement, Falk will serve as a special volunteer to the division.