Jihane N. Benhammou, MD, PhD

Key investigator

  • Jihane N. Benhammou, MD, PhD

Hepatology and health services research

The Benhammou Laboratory focus is to understand the molecular and clinical predictors metabolic dysfunction-associated steatotic liver disease (MASLD) and MASLD-associated hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in diverse populations. The laboratory also focuses on understanding the role of statins for HCC chemoprevention. To this end, the laboratory conducts multidisciplinary research at UCLA and Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Health Systems. The laboratory uses transdisciplinary approaches including patient-derived organoids, human samples and mouse models to interrogate key pathways. 

Current research projects

  • Establish patient-derived organoid models for HCC
  • Understand the role of statins and key lipid genes in the pathogenesis of NAFLD-related HCC and their effects on the Hippo pathway
  • Develop NAFLD definition using pre-existing Electronic Health Records and imaging modalities within Veterans Affairs population
  • Identify modifiable clinical risk factors for HCC

Future research projects

  • Developing prediction models for HCC in NAFLD in NAFLD patients with and without cirrhosis
  • Assessing prevalence of NAFLD in VA Healthcare System
  • Study the effects of statin on immunotherapy in HCC

Current funding and support

  • Seed Grant: UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center Foundation, "The impact of statins on immune checkpoint inhibitors for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma. PI: Benhammou. 2024
  • KL2 UL1TR001881: National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences Institute. PI: Benhammou, 2022-2025
  • Clinical Science Research & Development (CSR&D) grant from the Veterans Affairs Office of Research and Development. Her work aims to improve our understanding of the role of statins for chemoprevention in hepatocellular carcinoma by using novel patient-derived organoid models and interrogating key oncogenic pathways. PI: Benhammou, 2023-2028 Full story

Previous funding and support

  • NIH/NIDDK CURE: Digestive Diseases Research Center Pilot and Feasibility Studies (P03 DK41301), 2019-2022
  • American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) Advanced Transplant Hepatology Award, 2020-2021
  • Visium 10X Spatial Genomics Grant, 2020-2021
  • Intercept Pharmaceuticals Investigator Initiated Study to determine the prevalence of NAFLD in the post hepatitis C SVR patient population within Veterans, 2017-2019

In the news

  • An inspiring weekend in LA with women in GI
    •  The American Gastroenterological Association (AGA) supports women in gastroenterology by offering opportunities for career and professional development as a part of a framework to advance gender equity in gastroenterology. To support these efforts, they’ve been bringing together women in GI for regional workshops across the country. The most recent workshop was held at the UCLA, where 50 women in academia and private practice from all career stages heard from women leaders who facilitated conversations in topics most relevant to their personal and professional development. Lin Chang, MD, vice chief of the division, was a co-organizer and speaker. UCLA GI speakers also included Jihane N. Benhammou, MD, PhD, assistant clinical professor of medicine; Folasade P. May, MD, PhD, MPhil, associate professor of medicine; and Suzanne R. Smith, MSN, NP, CMT-P, integrative health practitioner. Read full story
  • Selected to AASLD Promoting Leadership Potential for Women in Hepatology Mentorship Program
  • New member of the NIH Early Career Reviewer (ECR) Program
  • Selected an Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Early Career Women Faculty Leadership Development Seminar recipient
  • Joins the executive committee for the VA Cooperative Study, "Preventing Liver Cancer Mortality through Imaging with Ultrasound vs MRI." As a committee member, she joins other liver cancer experts across the country to oversee one of the largest randomized control trials comparing ultrasound to MRI for the early detection of hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Joins the editorial board of Hepatology Communications.
  • Selected as an early career physician-scientist "scholar" for the 2021-2023 AGA FORWARD Program: Fostering Opportunities Resulting in Workforce and Research Diversity supported by NIH.

Current trainees

  • Nguyen V. Pham, MD

Past trainees

  • Saroja Bangaru, MD
  • Ram Sundaresh, MD

About Dr. Benhammou

Dr. Benhammou completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin, with a major in human biology. She then completed medical school at University of California, San Francisco with a thesis in molecular medicine. Before starting her internship at the University of California, Los Angeles in internal medicine, Dr. Benhammou participated in a two-year intramural program at the National Cancer Institutes studying functional genomics and hereditary forms of kidney cancer.

Dr. Benhammou went on to complete her internal medicine and gastroenterology training at UCLA. There, she received advanced research training in the UCLA Specialty Training and Advanced Research (STAR) program and NIH T32, which supported her graduate studies in the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology. Her doctoral dissertation addressed the clinical risk factors of NAFLD hepatocellular carcinoma and the molecular mechanisms at play in NAFLD pathogenesis. Following her PhD, Dr. Benhammou completed additional clinical training in transplant hepatology at UCLA.

Dr. Benhammou joined the digestive diseases and hepatology faculty at UCLA and Greater Los Angeles VA where she will care for patients with chronic liver disease before and after liver transplantation. She will continue to pursue her research on NAFLD-associated hepatocellular carcinoma using clinical and translational research tools. She is board certified in internal medicine, gastroenterology, and transplant hepatology.

Lab Members

Bo Qiano, MD

Bo Qiano, MD

Research Associate

Dr. Qiao earned his medical degree at Zhangjiakou Medical School in China, followed by an MS in biochemistry at Beijing University. He served as a research associate at USC in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and subsequently joined the Dumont-UCLA Transplant Center. He is now joining the laboratories of Noam Jacob, MD, PhD, and Jihane N. Benhammou, MD, PhD, to continue his work on metabolism and the gut-liver axis.

Nicole Prause, PhD

Nicole Prause, PhD

Senior Statistician

Dr. Prause specializes in time series analysis, including biosignal processing and cognitive models. She will be working with Dr. Jihane N. Benhammou, Dr. Tien S. Dong and Dr. Arpan A. Patel on a number of clinical, translational and health services research projects in hepatology. Her past research has focused on decision making during alcohol intoxication using direct administration in laboratory studies.

Publications (selected) - Full list on PubMed