Kirk J. Wangensteen

I am a Physician-Scientist.

Kirk J. Wangensteen, M.D., Ph.D.

University of Pennsylvania

I am driven to link genes to associated functions in liver diseases and I hope to make discoveries that make positive impacts on patients.

Dr. Wangensteen's areas of expertise are in liver biology, liver cancer, and genetics. The main missions for his research program and clinical practice are to improve the understanding of liver disease biology and the outcomes for patients with liver diseases. His research focuses on unravelling poorly understood genetic pathways involved in liver repopulation, homeostasis, and oncogenesis.

Dr. Wangensteen leads a project to perform a case-control genetic association study in liver cancer, a cancer type with well-known environmental risk factors but poorly characterized inherited components. The results so far indicate that rare pathogenic or likely pathogenic germline variants in cancer predisposition genes are detected in 11-14% of patients with liver cancer. Knowledge of these variants could change clinical management by personalizing treatment and screening approaches.

Dr. Wangensteen also examines the role of genes and genetic pathways in liver biology, using cell lines and animal models. The Wangensteen lab conducts genetic screens in mice using pools of DNA plasmids targeting hundreds of different genes, using an innovative in vivo CRISPR/Cas9 system. A single assay screens ~1 million liver cell clones for differential rates of liver repopulation or tumor formation based on the biology of the targeted gene. For example, the lab has completed a screen to identify genes that can confer sensitivity or resistance to drug treatment with sorafenib, which has long been used to treat for liver cancer.

As a physician-scientist, Dr. Wangensteen aims to translate research findings into new treatments for liver disease. His clinical subspecialty is in the genetics of gastrointestinal diseases, including hereditary cancer syndromes and monogenic diseases of the liver. He regularly performs clinical whole exome sequencing on patients to better understand the etiology of undiagnosed diseases of the liver, such as cirrhosis of unknown etiology.


Grant Listing
Project Title Grant Number Program Director Publication(s)
Hereditary Genetics of Hepatocellular Carcinoma
1R01CA259201-01A1
Danielle Carrick


To request edits to this profile, please contact Mark Alexander at alexandm@mail.nih.gov.

Last Updated: 03/01/2022 04:10:44