Rose Li, MD, PhD


Dr. Li’s research is primarily focused on studying the interaction of epigenetic mechanisms and environmental factors such as bioactive dietary compounds in human diseases including cancer, obesity and aging utilizing transgenic mice as main animal models. Nutrition is believed to be an important environmental factor that is involved in regulation of gene expression during disease development through impacting epigenetic pathways. In particular, her primary research strategy investigates epigenetics regulation of reproductive cancers and transplacental/transgenerational disease prevention as well as the interaction of environmental factors and gene regulation during development. Dr. Li is interested in translational studies and strives to apply her research in future clinical trials.



Academic Information

Assistant Professor


Medical Sciences Building, NW508
One Hospital Dr
Columbia, MO 65212
United States

P. 573-884-8975

Research Interests

  • Epigenetics diets and cancer/obesity prevention/therapy
  • Developmental origins of human diseases
  • Microbiome and cancer/obesity prevention/therapy
  • Estrogen receptor regulation and breast cancer therapy
  • Epigenetics and aging

Areas of Expertise

  • Epigenetics
  • Diets and nutrition
  • Cancer prevention and therapy
  • Obesity prevention
  • Microbiome and metabolism

Education & Training

Post-Graduate School

2009, Postdoc, University of Alabama at Birmingham
2006, PhD, Peking Union Medical College & Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences

Awards & Honors

  • 2007-Present Member, American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)
  • 2014-Present Member, American Society for Nutrition (ASN)
  • 2018 Winner of ILSI North America Research Design Challenge
  • 2017 Finalist of 2018 Future Leader Award in ILSI North America
  • 2015 Research Supplement Award From UAB Department of Medicine
  • 2014 Mary Swartz Rose Young Investigator Award from American Society for Nutrition
  • 2011 Best paper award by UAB-based investigators in the area of nutrition or obesity
  • from Science Unbound Foundation
  • 2011 Susan G. Komen for the Cure travel award
  • 2009 Susan G. Komen for the Cure travel award
  • 2009 AICR Post-Doctoral Grant Awards
  • 2008 Susan G. Komen for the Cure travel award
  • 2007 Susan G. Komen for the Cure travel award
  • 2006 Cum Laude postgraduate in Peking Union Medical College

In the News


*denotes corresponding author

  • Li S, Chen M, Li Y*, Tollefsbol TO. Prenatal epigenetics diets play protective roles against environmental pollution. Clin Epigenetics. 2019 May 16;11(1):82. doi: 10.1186/s13148-019-0659-4. Review.
  • Li Y*. Epigenetic Mechanisms Link Maternal Diets and Gut Microbiome to Obesity in the Offspring. Frontier in Genetics. 2018, 9:342. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2018.00342.
  • Li Y*., Buckhaults P., Li S., Tollefsbol T.O., Temporal efficacy of a sulforaphane-based broccoli sprout diet in prevention of breast cancer through modulation of epigenetic mechanisms. Cancer Prevention Research, 2018. pii: canprevres.0423.2017. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-17-0423. Featured in NIH electronic newsletter, Nutrition Frontiers. Only three publications per newsletter will be selected based on scientific merit, innovation and potential public health impact. Received various media reports including UAB eReporter, Daily news, Medical Press, Breast Cancer News et. al.
  • Paul B., Li Y. and Tollefsbol T.O., Synergistic epigenetic effects of combinatorial genistein and sulforaphane in breast cancer inhibition, International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 2018, 19(6). pii: E1754. doi: 10.3390/ijms19061754.
  • Paul B., Royston K, Li Y., et al., Impact of genistein on the gut microbiome of humanized mice and its role in breast tumor inhibition. PLoS one. 2017 Dec 21;12(12):e0189756.
  • Li Y*., Meeran S.M. and Tollefsbol T.O., Combinatorial bioactive botanicals re-sensitize tamoxifen treatment in ER-negative breast cancer via epigenetic reactivation of ERα expression. Scientific Reports, 7(1): 9345, 2017. Received various media reports including UAB eReporter, Alabama News Center, Birmingham Times, Newsweek, et. al. Ranked in the top 10 papers on oncology published by Scientific Reports in 2017.
  • Li Y* and Tollefsbol T.O., Age-related epigenetic drift and phenotypic plasticity loss: Implications in prevention of age-related human diseases. Epigenomics, 8(12):1637-1651, 2016.
  • Li Y*., Buckhaults P., Cui X., Tollefsbol T.O., Combinatorial epigenetic mechanisms and efficacy of early breast cancer inhibition by nutritive botanicals. Epigenomics, 2016, Aug;8(8):1019-37.