Chen joins UI Cancer Center as director of Biostatistics Shared Resources Core

Zhengjia “Nelson” Chen, PhD, has joined the University of Illinois Cancer Center as leader of the Biostatistics Shared Resources Core (BSR). He comes to Chicago from Winship Cancer Institute at Atlanta’s Emory University, Georgia’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center.

Chen, who began his tenure at the UI Cancer Center on Monday, Feb. 17, has more than 16 years of experience in designing Phase I, II and III clinical trials and performing statistical analysis. In 2003, Chen joined the Children’s Oncology Group, a NCI-supported clinical trials group comprised of more than 9,000 experts in childhood cancer at more than 200 leading children’s hospitals, universities and cancer centers across North America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. He moved to Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute in 2009 to continue his cancer research.

Throughout his career, Chen has developed his unique expertise in adaptive and sequential approaches for clinical trials. He has designed numerous trials with state-of-the-art approaches, conducted power and sample size calculation under various conditions, and developed statistical analysis plans (SAP) for hundreds of clinical trials. Chen has extensive knowledge of multivariate statistical procedures, including methods for analysis of population-based large samples.

As the senior faculty biostatistician of Winship’s Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Shared Resource core, Chen played an integral role in authoring and presenting Winship’s Biostatistical Core portion of its Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) application. Winship was successfully promoted from NCI-designated Cancer Institute to Comprehensive Cancer Institute. He has also participated as principal investigator, co-investigator or statistician on numerous grants, and obtained more than 45 grants and contracts from the National Institutes of Health, NCI, U.S. Department of Defense, American Cancer Society, and pharmaceutical companies, among others.

Chen also served as the co-director of Winship’s Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Core (BBIC) of Lung SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) in lung cancer. He also served as the director of Biostatistics and Informatics Core (BIC) of Pancreatic SPORE, as well as Head and Neck SPORE. With Chen’s assistance, Emory’s Lung SPORE was recently awarded about $9.7 million for the next five years from NCI. Chen was also a member of NCI’s Clinical Oncology Study Section.

While at the UI Cancer Center, Chen plans to develop two educational components at the center’s BSR that will fulfill the its educational mission: an oncology journal club that will educate residents and fellowship trainees on fundamental topics in cancer biostatistics and bioinformatics; and a series of workshops related to the use of adaptive clinical trial designs. In addition to his role as biostatistician at the UI Cancer Center, Chen will have a 20 percent appointment in the UIC School of Public Health’s epidemiology and biostatistics department.

Chen received his undergraduate degree in microbiology from Peking University in Beijing, China, where he also earned a Master of Science degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. He also received a Master of Science degree in Biometry and Ph.D. in Biostatistics, both from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

Biostatistics is a Shared Resource central to the mission of most Cancer Centers, particularly those that perform clinical or population research, according to the NCI. Participation by statisticians in many collaborative activities of the Cancer Center is eligible for CCSG support. Salary support is allowable for participation in Cancer Center pilot projects, assistance to Center investigators in conceptualizing and developing research projects, analyses for publication, and the development of methodology clearly and closely related to the support of specific projects within the Cancer Center.

The CCSG is not intended to support independent, investigator-initiated research in statistical methodology, for which statisticians, like other scientists, should be supported by project-specific grants; or a significant collaborative role for a statistician on a funded research project, since this effort would normally be supported by an appropriate time-and-effort allocation as a collaborator on that grant.

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Chen, please email him at or Daisy Cintron (core coordinator)

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