Nicolas Wentzensen, M.D., Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Clinical Genetics Branch


9609 Medical Center Drive
Room SG/6E448
Rockville, MD 20850


Research Topics

I am leading a research program focused on the molecular etiology and prevention of cervical and other human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers, and ovarian and endometrial cancers. I also have special expertise in the p16/Rb pathway, human papillomavirus biology, gene methylation, and molecular profiling of cancers. A strong focus of my work is on moving etiologic discoveries into clinical or public health practice. Several of my studies have the potential to directly affect public health decisions and clinical practice.

Cervical and Other HPV-Related Cancers

I am currently working on several established DCEG studies, and have initiated new field efforts to analyze the etiology of cervical precancers and to improve colposcopy-biopsy protocols. In the Study to Understand Cervical Cancer Early Endpoints and Determinants, my goal is to comprehensively assess biomarkers of risk for progressive cervical neoplasia, and thus develop a new set of biomarkers that can distinguish those at highest risk of cervical cancer from those with benign infection. In the Biopsy Study to Improve Detection of Cervical Precancer, my goals are to study cervical disease on the lesion level, to optimize criteria for biopsy placement, and to analyze the incremental benefit of taking multiple biopsies. In the Cervical Cancer Screening Among HIV-Infected Women in India and the Anal Precancer and Cancer in HIV-Positive Men (Anal Cancer Screening Study), I am focusing on evaluation of biomarkers and colposcopy/anoscopy to improve detection of HPV-related diseases in HIV-infected populations.

Ovarian Cancer

The etiology of ovarian cancer is complex and poorly understood, in part because risk factor associations may differ by histological type, grade and other factors. My focus on ovarian cancers is to understand etiologic heterogeneity by studying risk factor associations and circulating biomarkers in histologic subtypes. I am particularly interested in the role of inflammation in ovarian carcinogenesis, since it could lead to new interventions to prevent or control inflammation.

Endometrial Cancer

My main focus on endometrial cancer research is to characterize cancer precursors and to develop early detection biomarkers. In a study to evaluate biomarkers in samples collected using endometrial brushings and intravaginal tampons, my colleagues and I identified several candidate markers that showed good performance to identify women with endometrial cancer. I am now conducting a large prospective study to evaluate methylation and mutation markers to identify endometrial cancers and cancer precursors.


Dr. Wentzensen received an M.D. from the University of Heidelberg in 2000. He trained in general surgery and conducted research in surgical oncology in the Department of Surgery, University of Heidelberg from 2000-2002. From 2002-2007, Dr. Wentzensen earned his Ph.D. (Habilitation) in Applied Tumor Biology at the Institute of Pathology, University of Heidelberg. During this time, he conducted research in molecular biology, molecular pathology, and molecular epidemiology of cervical cancer. He built a research group focusing on cervical cancer biomarker discovery and validation and established a diagnostic laboratory for cervical cancer screening. From 2005-2007, he earned a Master of Epidemiology at the University of Mainz. Dr. Wentzensen joined DCEG as a visiting fellow in 2007, became a tenure-track investigator in 2009, and was awarded scientific tenure by the NIH and appointed senior investigator in 2013.

Selected Publications

  1. Wentzensen N, Fetterman B, Castle PE, Schiffman M, Wood SN, Stiemerling E, Tokugawa D, Bodelon C, Poitras N, Lorey T, Kinney W. p16/Ki-67 Dual Stain Cytology for Detection of Cervical Precancer in HPV-Positive Women. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2015;107(12):djv257.

  2. Wentzensen N, Sun C, Ghosh A, Kinney W, Mirabello L, Wacholder S, Shaber R, LaMere B, Clarke M, Lorincz AT, Castle PE, Schiffman M, Burk RD. Methylation of HPV18, HPV31, and HPV45 genomes and cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 3. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012;104(22):1738-49.

  3. Wentzensen N, Wacholder S. From differences in means between cases and controls to risk stratification: a business plan for biomarker development. Cancer Discov. 2013;3(2):148-57.

  4. Wentzensen N, Walker JL, Gold MA, Smith KM, Zuna RE, Mathews C, Dunn ST, Zhang R, Moxley K, Bishop E, Tenney M, Nugent E, Graubard BI, Wacholder S, Schiffman M. Multiple biopsies and detection of cervical cancer precursors at colposcopy. J Clin Oncol. 2015;33(1):83-9.

This page was last updated on October 18th, 2019