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Jennifer M. Kwan

Biography

Jennifer M. Kwan, MD, PhD, is a cardio-oncologist, a specialty that focuses on cardiovascular side effects caused by cancer treatment. She also has expertise in interpreting cardiac MRIs and CT scans, which helps her gain insights on the effects of cancer and cancer therapy on the heart.

Dr. Kwan grew up interested in medicine and science and engaged in public health and genetics research during her undergraduate years. “I realized I had a passion for medicine and research. And when volunteering in a clinic, I saw we had a limited arsenal to deal with things like genetic cardiomyopathies and getting them back to a good quality of life,” she says. “That is what spurred me to become a physician-scientist and pursue my MD and PhD.”

As someone who loves hiking and being physically active, Dr. Kwan says she was naturally drawn to the idea of how to slow down aging and improve one’s health span. “A healthy cardiovascular system is crucial to living well and keeping our mental faculties well into our old age, which brought me to cardiology as I wanted to keep the heart healthy,” she says. “In my PhD years, I worked in a cancer lab and explored how cancer formed and how cells differentiate into different tissues. The cancer research field, particularly when it comes to precision medicine, moves so quickly compared to cardiology, and I hope to change that.” 

During her internal medicine residency, Dr. Kwan took care of two patients who were in their 30s and mothers to young children. Both women developed heart failure due to cancer treatment. “This inspired me to think of who is at risk of cardiac toxicities and what pathways we can target,” Dr. Kwan says, referring to damage to the heart caused by chemotherapy or immunotherapy. “If we can figure that out, we can try to prevent it.” 

To further explore this question, Dr. Kwan did a visiting scholar rotation at the University of California-San Francisco to investigate oncologic therapy cardiotoxicities. In working with a multimillion patient dataset, this experience helped her realize the power of big data. She has been incorporating use of large datasets to mine them for insights between genomics and disease states, including in her current research in clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP) and other mutations that occur in our cells as we age, called somatic variants.

With age, one’s blood-forming stem cells acquire genetic mutations. This is often harmless, but sometimes, it can lead to CHIP, which can increase the risk of heart disease, heart failure, stroke and blood borne cancer. However, there are no current guidelines or therapies for this condition. Dr. Kwan is investigating CHIP’s prevalence and effects among cancer and heart failure patients and potential therapeutic targets. 

“I encourage all of my patients to consider being involved in our research, which is crucial to better understanding their condition and can hopefully improve outcomes for people who come after them,” she says,

Titles

  • Assistant Professor of Medicine (Cardiovascular Medicine)

Education & Training

  • Visiting Scholar
    UCSF (2018)
  • Resident/Postdoc
    UI Chicago (2018)
  • MSTP MD, PhD trainee
    UI Chicago (2013)
  • Bachelors
    UC Berkeley (2005)
  • SMART research training
    Baylor College of Medicine (2001)

Additional Information

Biography

Jennifer M. Kwan, MD, PhD, is a cardio-oncologist, a specialty that focuses on cardiovascular side effects caused by cancer treatment. She also has expertise in interpreting cardiac MRIs and CT scans, which helps her gain insights on the effects of cancer and cancer therapy on the heart.

Dr. Kwan grew up interested in medicine and science and engaged in public health and genetics research during her undergraduate years. “I realized I had a passion for medicine and research. And when volunteering in a clinic, I saw we had a limited arsenal to deal with things like genetic cardiomyopathies and getting them back to a good quality of life,” she says. “That is what spurred me to become a physician-scientist and pursue my MD and PhD.”

As someone who loves hiking and being physically active, Dr. Kwan says she was naturally drawn to the idea of how to slow down aging and improve one’s health span. “A healthy cardiovascular system is crucial to living well and keeping our mental faculties well into our old age, which brought me to cardiology as I wanted to keep the heart healthy,” she says. “In my PhD years, I worked in a cancer lab and explored how cancer formed and how cells differentiate into different tissues. The cancer research field, particularly when it comes to precision medicine, moves so quickly compared to cardiology, and I hope to change that.” 

During her internal medicine residency, Dr. Kwan took care of two patients who were in their 30s and mothers to young children. Both women developed heart failure due to cancer treatment. “This inspired me to think of who is at risk of cardiac toxicities and what pathways we can target,” Dr. Kwan says, referring to damage to the heart caused by chemotherapy or immunotherapy. “If we can figure that out, we can try to prevent it.” 

To further explore this question, Dr. Kwan did a visiting scholar rotation at the University of California-San Francisco to investigate oncologic therapy cardiotoxicities. In working with a multimillion patient dataset, this experience helped her realize the power of big data. She has been incorporating use of large datasets to mine them for insights between genomics and disease states, including in her current research in clonal hematopoiesis of indeterminate potential (CHIP) and other mutations that occur in our cells as we age, called somatic variants.

With age, one’s blood-forming stem cells acquire genetic mutations. This is often harmless, but sometimes, it can lead to CHIP, which can increase the risk of heart disease, heart failure, stroke and blood borne cancer. However, there are no current guidelines or therapies for this condition. Dr. Kwan is investigating CHIP’s prevalence and effects among cancer and heart failure patients and potential therapeutic targets. 

“I encourage all of my patients to consider being involved in our research, which is crucial to better understanding their condition and can hopefully improve outcomes for people who come after them,” she says,

Titles

  • Assistant Professor of Medicine (Cardiovascular Medicine)

Education & Training

  • Visiting Scholar
    UCSF (2018)
  • Resident/Postdoc
    UI Chicago (2018)
  • MSTP MD, PhD trainee
    UI Chicago (2013)
  • Bachelors
    UC Berkeley (2005)
  • SMART research training
    Baylor College of Medicine (2001)

Additional Information