Esther Lu, PhD

Associate Professor of Surgery


Graduate School

1993-1997, BS Computational Mathematics, NanKai University, Tianjin, P. R. China

1999-2001, MS Financial Mathematics, National University of Singapore, Singapore

2001-2007, PhD Biostatistics, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI

Teaching Appointments

Master of Population Health Sciences (MPHS) degree program:
M19-550 Randomized Controlled Trials
M19-527 Development, Validation, and Application of Risk Prediction Models

Master of Science in Biostatistics (MSIBS) degree program:
M21-617 Study Design and Clinical Trials


Research Interests

Dr. Lu’s primary research interests include study design and data analysis in longitudinal studies and cluster randomized clinical trials (CRTs). Specifically, 1) Optimal designs of both longitudinal data and two-level/three-level CRTs using generalized estimating equation (GEE) models; 2) Relative efficiency of unequal versus equal cluster sizes in two-level CRTs using both GEE models and bias-corrected sandwich estimators; and 3) Sample size considerations in both three-level CRTs and stepped wedge designs using GEE models. Her research also includes propensity score methodology, survival data analysis, and prediction models. As a lead statistician during 2007-2009, she served on many projects including Phase I-IV clinical trials across different functional departments at the Pharmaceutical Product Development (PPD) Inc., which has ensured meeting the regulatory demands of FDA and submission deadlines of pharmaceutical companies. She is a member of the Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences (ICTS) Research Design and Biostatistics Group (RDBG) and is currently providing statistical support for the projects of the Siteman Cancer Center (SCC). At the SCC, she served as the statistician in the areas of Gastrointestinal, Gynecology, Head and Neck, and Thoracic diseases. She has had highly productive collaborations with these research teams and published more than 120 manuscripts including as lead statistician on randomized clinical trials published in New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association (2), and Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Research Profile

Selective Active Support Grants

P50CA196510Hawkins, William 7/28/2016 – 6/30/2021
National Institutes of Health  
Washington University SPORE in Pancreatic Cancer
R01CA233848James, Aimee7/1/2019 – 6/30/2024
National Institutes of Health  
Implementing multilevel colon cancer screening interventions to reduce rural cancer disparities
P50CA244431Brownson/Colditz   9/1/2019 – 8/31/2024
National Institutes of Health  
Washington University Implementation Science Center for Cancer Control
R01HS026742Newland, Jason     9/1/2019 – 8/31/2024
National Institutes of Health  
De-Implementation of Unnecessary Surgical Antibiotic Prophylaxis in Children
National Institutes of Health  
Supporting the Health and Well-being of Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disability During COVID-19 Pandemic
Selected Publications


Cluster-randomized trials

  1. Liu J, XiongC, LiuL, WangG, LuoJ, GaoF, ChenL, LiY. Relative efficiency of unequal versus equal cluster sizes in cluster-randomized trials using bias-corrected sandwich estimators. Journal of Biopharmaceutical Statistics 2020 Sep 24;1-16

Longitudinal studies


Randomized clinical trials

Implementation science

  1. Salazar AS, Sekhon S, Rohatgi KW, Nuako A, Liu J, Harriss C, Brennan E, LaBeau D, Abdalla I, Schulze C, Muenks J, Overlot  D, Higgins JA, Jones LS, Swick C, Goings S, Badiu J, Walker J, Colditz GA, James AS. A Stepped-Wedge Randomized Trial Protocol of a Community Intervention for Increasing Lung Screening Through Engaging Primary Care Providers (I-STEP). (Contemporary Clinical Trials, In press)

Observational studies

  1. Subramanian M, Liu J, Greenberg C, Schumacher J, Chang GJ, McMurry TL, Francescatti AB, Semenkovich TR, Hudson JL, Meyers BF, Puri V, Kozower BD. Imaging surveillance for surgically resected stage I non-small cell lung cancer: is more always better? Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery 2019, 157(3):1205-1217
  1. Gay HA*, Liu J* (Co-first authors), Spencer CR, Lewis JS, Diaz J, Nussenbaum B,  Piccirillo JF, Ferraro DJ, Wildes TM, Sinha P, Adkins DR, Haughey BH, and Thorstad WL. Outcomes of p16 positive oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma treated with surgery and adjuvant IMRT. Journal of Radiation Oncology, 2015: 4(1): 37-46.
  1. Crabtree TD, Puri V, Robinson C, Bradley J, Broderick S, Patterson A, Liu J, Musick J, Bell J, Chang M, Meyers BF. Analysis of first recurrence and survival in patients with stage I non-small cell lung cancer treated with surgical resection or stereotactic radiation therapy. Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery 2014; 147(4): 1183-92. PMCID: PMC4113038
  1. Fernandez FG, Crabtree TD, Liu J, Meyers BF. Incremental Risk of Prior Coronary Arterial Stents for Pulmonary Resection. Annals of Thoracic Surgery 2013; 95(4): 1212-1220.
  1. Carson KR, Bartlett NL, McDonald JR, Luo S, Zeringuie A, Liu J, Fu J, Chang S-H, Colditz GA. Increased Body Mass Index is associated with improved survival in United States veterans with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Journal of Clinical Oncology 2012; 30(26): 3217-3222.

List of Published Work (with PMCID):

(314) 362-0387