Emmanuel Thomas, M.D., Ph.D.
M.D., University of Miami School Of Medicine, Miami, FL
Ph.D. in Microbiology/Immunology, University of Miami School Of Medicine, Miami, FL
B.A. in Chemistry, Florida International University, Miami, FL
B.S. in Biology, Florida International University, Miami, FL
My laboratory and clinical research program focuses on issues related to the Hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV infection is the most common blood-borne infection in the United States with estimates of 4 million HCV-infected individuals in the United States and 170 million worldwide. Most (70–80%) HCV infections persist and about 30% of individuals with persistent infection develop chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). HCC is one of the few cancers whose incidence is increasing in the U.S. mainly due to the aging HCV infected population. Although the recommended treatment for chronic infection involves a 24-week course of a protease inhibitor, peginterferon and ribavirin, many patients will not be cured by thisregimen. Interestingly, treatment with peginterferon and ribavirin resulted in rates of sustained virologic response that were lower among HCV infected Latino whites as compared to non-Latino whites suggesting a cause for an observed health disparity. A genetic polymorphism near the IL28B gene is associated with spontaneous viral clearance and with an approximately twofold change in response to treatment. Because the genotype leading to better response is observed in substantially greater frequency among Europeans populations, this genetic polymorphism also has the potential to explain much of the difference in response rates between racial groups. However, there is little information about the prevalence of HCV in Latinos in South Florida or the frequency of the IL28B risk allele in this populations. Furthermore, the mechanism by which the IL28B locus influences viral clearance and treatment outcomes remains an enigma. We endeavor to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying these observations.
Since I was raised in Miami and obtained my early research training here, I am committed to improving the treatment of viral illnesses and associated cancers in the South Florida area. Over the course of my career, I have endeavored to make steady improvements to my skill set through the support of rigorous training programs. I began working in a molecular biology laboratory during my first year of undergraduate study and subsequently obtained my MD and PhD degrees with a focus on antiviral innate immunity. During medical school, I completed my PhD and published my thesis work in the prestigious journal NATURE. In addition, I was a Doris Duke Clinical Research Fellow at UNC-Chapel Hill with Michael Fried M.D., during my last year of medical school, to build on my basic science background by working with patients infected with HCV. I subsequently expanded my initial training during my postdoctoral work in the liver diseases branch of the NIH, with T. Jake Liang, M.D., that offered training in an integrated clinical and basic science research environment.