Stephen D. Hursting, PhD, MPH

Professor of Nutrition

Dr. Hursting is a Professor of Nutrition at the UNC Nutrition Research Institute in Kannapolis, NC. He is also Professor in the Department of Nutrition and the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An international leader in the area of nutrition, obesity, metabolism and cancer, his lab focuses on the molecular and metabolic mechanisms underlying obesity-cancer associations, and the impact of obesity- energy balance modulation (eg, calorie restriction and exercise) or pharmacologic agents on cancer development, progression, and responses to chemotherapy. Primarily using genetically engineered mouse models of breast cancer (recently in parallel with several clinical trials), colon cancer and pancreatic cancer, Dr. Hursting has identified the IGF1/Akt/mTOR and NF-kB signaling pathways as key targets for breaking the obesity-cancer link. His publications establish causal links between obesity, cancer and several systemic factors (including IGF-1, insulin, leptin and IL-6) and components of their downstream signaling pathways (including mTOR and NF-kb). 

Prior to joining the UNC faculty in 2014, Dr. Hursting was Professor and Chair of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, the McKean-Love Endowed Chair of Nutritional, Molecular and Cellular Sciences in the UT College of Natural Sciences, and Professor of Molecular Carcinogenesis at the UT-MD Anderson Cancer Center (2005-14). Dr. Hursting earned a BA in biology from Earlham College and a PhD in nutritional biochemistry and an MPH in nutritional epidemiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also completed postdoctoral training in molecular biology and cancer prevention as a Cancer Prevention Fellow at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). 


Show More

From 1999-2005, Dr. Hursting was Deputy Director of the NCI’s Office of Preventive Oncology, Division of Cancer Prevention. He was responsible for all aspects of the NCI’s Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program. Dr. Hursting was also an Investigator in the NCI’s Center for Cancer Research, where he was Chief of the Nutrition and Molecular Carcinogenesis Section of the NCI’s Laboratory of Biosystems and Cancer. From 1995 to 1999, Dr. Hursting was an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Carcinogenesis at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he directed a multidisciplinary research program in nutrition and cancer prevention. He continues his affiliation with his former departments at the MD Anderson Cancer Center as a Professor of Carcinogenesis and Adjunct Associate Professor of Epidemiology. 

His research program focuses on the nutritional modulation of the carcinogenesis process, with a particular emphasis on the molecular, cellular and hormonal changes underlying important nutrition and cancer associations, with a focus on energy balance/obesity.


Hursting’s Team

Angela Clontz : Graduate Research Assistant, Hursting and Voruganti Labs

Angela Clontz

Graduate Research Assistant, Hursting and Voruganti Labs

Angela joined the NRI in August 2022 after graduating from Meredith College in Raleigh, NC, in May 2022 with a Master of Science in Nutrition. Her master’s degree focused on dietetics to become a future registered dietitian. Before completing her graduate studies, Angela gained 20 years of research experience in the pharmaceutical industry by managing first-in-class and first-in-human clinical trials, especially in immuno-oncology therapies. Angela is co-mentored at NRI by Dr. Hursting Dr. Voruganti where her focus is to expand nutrition research into human clinical trials and focus on identifying nutritional and genetic factors that can aid in early disease detection and using the mechanisms of metabolomics for adjuvant therapy in cancer treatment.
Elaine (Elle) Glenny, PhD : Research Associate, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Elaine (Elle) Glenny, PhD

Research Associate, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Elle completed her PhD at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill under the supervision of Dr. Ian Carroll where she investigated the consequences of severe calorie restriction on intestinal stem cell function and potential interactions of the gut microbiota. To further delineate dietary regulation of intestinal epithelial cell function, Elle has remained at UNC-Chapel Hill where she is now working with Drs. Stephen Hursting and Jatin Roper (Duke University) to investigate adipose-derived inflammatory factors that may drive colorectal tumor progression in obesity.
Evan Paules, PhD : Postdoctoral Research Associate, Hursting Lab

Evan Paules, PhD

Postdoctoral Research Associate, Hursting Lab

Evan Paules joined the NRI in August 2016 as a doctoral student under the mentorship of Dr. Zeisel. Following his graduation, Evan joined the lab of Dr. Hursting where he is now a postdoctoral researcher. Evan is currently investigating the determinants of heterogenic responses to dietary interventions in individuals. Evan attended Rider University where he graduated with a double major in Biochemistry and Behavioral Neuroscience. He was also a member of Rider University’s Division 1 swim team for all four years while he attended Rider.
Ariana Reid : Research Technician, Hursting Lab - NRI

Ariana Reid

Research Technician, Hursting Lab - NRI

Ariana joined the NRI in November 2021 as a research technician in the Hursting lab. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2021 with a BS in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Health and Society. She's excited to work as a research technician and gain lab experience. In her free time, Ariana enjoys playing video games and creating art.
Erika Rezeli : Lab Manager, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Erika Rezeli

Lab Manager, Hursting Lab - Chapel Hill

Erika joined the CH lab in Feb 2015 and works to facilitate lab operations. She loves getting the opportunity to work with lab members on their different projects. She graduated from NC State with a degree in Animal Science.  A native of Raleigh, NC, she enjoys crafting, reading, and cooking.

In the News

Precision Nutrition is Essential

In 2008, the UNC Nutrition Research Institute opened its doors with just two faculty members and nine staff. Established as an institute in the Nutrition department of the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the...

Experts Say More Research Is Needed to Understand Obesity-Cancer Link

This article originally appeared on Written by: Aislinn Antrim, Assistant Managing Editor Evidence has shown that reversing pro-cancer effects requires significant weight loss as well as substantial metabolic reprogramming. Although weight loss can...

NRI-Hosted Symposium on Future Directions in Choline

First established as an essential nutrient in 1998, choline is a nutrient with critical roles in the health and development of the brain, liver, and more. The past 25 years have seen significant advances in the choline field, however, the question remains: What’s...