Thomas J. Knobloch, M.S., Ph.D.

Associate Professor – Practice

Comprehensive Cancer Center – Molecular Carcinogenesis and Chemoprevention Program

Center for Advanced Function Foods & Entrepreneurship – Food Innovation Center

Environmental Health Sciences

Dr. Knobloch in front of the College of Public Health (Cunz Hall)

"Beyond mountains there are mountains," was spoken to Dr. Paul Farmer as he fought tuberculosis in the health dispaired, underserved, and marginalized people in Haiti.

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder (2003.) 

This Haitian proverb reminds us that as one problem is solved, another will present itself, and then we must solve that one too.


"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them," is paraphrased from several quotes by physicist Albert Einstein. If we are not prepared to think different, sometimes radically, then we are destined to repeat our failures.


1841 Neil Avenue
434 Cunz Hall
Columbus, OH, 43210
Phone: 614-292-4168
Website: The Ohio State University – Comprehensive Cancer Center – Molecular Carcinogene…

I originally trained in graduate school as a natural scientist using phylogenetics and taxonomic-systematics as tools for defining (re-defining) species relationships in North American Cyprinidae (that's minnows to most of the world). These studies transitioned into taxonomic characterization of Bacillariophyta (diatoms) in fresh water system in Northern Ohio, especially those consumed by algivorous minnows. Eventually this path lead to work with Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) investigating the invasive species Petromyzon marinus, the sea lamprey, and control measures in the Great Lakes' tributaries.

I moved from Cleveland to Columbus, OH just as the original Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Research Institute was being finished, and hiring for qualified researchers was at a premium. I was uniquely unqualified for a career in molecular carcinogenesis, but was hired and mentored by a young Internal Medicine physician scientist (Mark A. Dayton, PhD, MD) in the Division of Hematology & Oncology in the Department of Internal Medicine within the College of Medicine & Public Health.

I returned to graduate school and joined the research group of Jas Campbell Lang, Ph.D. in the Department of Otolaryngology investigating a novel gene of then unknown function, designated by us as GRS (Glasgow Rearranged Sequence). Later our gene and its variants reported by others under different names was reconciled by annotation as BCL2A1, a cell death regulator. For the next 6 years I would immerse myself in head and neck cancer etiology, biology, molecular profiles, treatment options, and prevention strategies.

Subsequently, I joined the new School of Public Health to continue work in head and neck cancers, with empahsis on oral cancers and the possile role of natural products, such as black raspberries, as dietary cancer prevention tools. This emerging science of black raspberry-mediated cancer chemoprevention was spearheaded by fundatmental studies by Gary D. Stoner, Ph.D., and would eventually shape the next 25 years of my research efforts.

Gaining experience as a Research Fellow via an NCI T32 Training Grant in Molecular Carcinogenesis, I continued on within the Division of Environmental Health Sciences in the new independent College of Public Health. Using both preclinical models of experimental oral carcinogenesis and early phase human clinical trials, I invesigated the striking ability of black raspberry phytochemicals to reduce bomarkers of DNA damage, chronic non-resolving inflammation, and oxidateive stress. All of these are classic hallmark features of cancer.

Most recently I have embarked on two newly emerging fields of intense concern. 

First, a topic of emphasis by the CDC and EPA is the role harmful algal blooms (HABs) on human health. These cyanotoxins are associated with the promotion of liver cancer, and can bioaccumulated in fish (see how I circled back to fish!) that are eated, accumulated in plants consumed as fresh produce, and contaminate drinking water when processing facilities are overwhelmed by bloom surges. My interest in this area is determining if dietary black raspberry interventions can reduce tumor incidence and multiplicity (burden) during cyanotoxin-mediated liver cancer promotion.

Second, a national health crisis exsists for firefighters, who have career-long exposures to numerous combustion-associated carcinogens and occupational stressors. The leading cause of deaths in firefighters is in flux between cardiac/cardiovascular events and occupation-associated cancers, including lung cancer. Nutritional interventions leveraging specific functional food components can be used to mediate these stressors (proinflammatory cytokines, oxidative damage, non-resolving inflammation) in this high at-risk population.