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Population science research grants announced

By Elizabeth Crown

The Stanford University Comprehensive Cancer Center has named the recipients of the 2006 Research Awards, a new seed grant program to support discovery and innovation in the cause, detection, treatment and prevention of cancer. Award-winning researchers received $50,000 each to support projects focusing on either of two areas of investigation:

Translational research grants for innovative collaborations between basic scientists and clinical researchers to translate laboratory discoveries into new approaches for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Population science research grants to support collaborative investigations in cancer epidemiology, survivorship and control with the goal of advancing more effective prevention and detection strategies, public health policy and cancer care. The work of three recipients of the 2006 population science research awards is highlighted here:

John Chan
John K. Chan, MD

 

John K. Chan, M.D.

For a study titled  “Population-Based Cancer Epidemiology Using the SEER-Medicare Database,” John K. Chan, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, will use a linked database that contains demographic, clinico-pathological and outcomes data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program of the National Cancer Institute and claims information for covered health care services from Medicare to study for breast and gynecologic cancers– from the time of a person’s eligibility until death.

By using these two linked databases, Chan hopes to provide new insight into the external validity of clinical trials in a population-based analysis, establish a unique population-based source of information that contains detailed information about elderly persons with cancer and evaluate the adherence of evidence-based guidelines to determine the efficacy of these recommendations and the compliance among physicians and hospitals within the United States.

Although death rates for most malignancies have decreased, cancer is still the second leading cause of death in women in the United States. Moreover, the overall rate of decline in the death rate of women is significantly lower than that of men over the past 15 years. In addition to gender disparities, there are also significant differences in the survival outcomes of women based on race and ethnicity. Demographic, socioeconomic and clinico-pathologic factors, including treatment patterns, have contributed to discrepancies in the outcome of cancer patients.

Ellen T. Chang, Sc.D.

Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection accounts for most of the worldwide incidence of hepatocellular cancer (HCC), particularly in natives and migrants from HBV-endemic areas of eastern and southeastern Asia, where the prevalence of chronic HBV infection is 35 times higher than that in the United States.

The incidence rate of HCC (mostly liver cancer) in Chinese Americans is also significantly higher than that in non-Asian Americans, making HCC a major racial/ethnic health disparity – one that is largely preventable through HBV vaccination.

Ellen Chang, ScD
Ellen Chang, ScD

 

Preventing HBV infection and HCC incidence in Chinese Americans, who are the largest and most rapidly growing subgroup of Asians in the United States, is an important and increasingly prominent public health priority, says award recipient Ellen T. Chang, Sc.D., a research scientist in the Department of Health Research and Policy and at the Northern California Cancer Center.

“Many Chinese Americans are not aware of or protected against their elevated risk for chronic HBV infection and liver disease. Special attention to the language and cultural issues is needed to design effective interventions to improve HBV knowledge and prevention in Chinese Americans,” Chang said.

As a precursor to designing and implementing a public and health care provider intervention to increase HBV awareness, screening and vaccination in Greater San Francisco Bay Area Chinese Americans, Chang and her collaborator Samuel So, M.D., Lui Hac Minh Professor, Department of Surgery, will conduct a pilot study using focus groups in the Chinese American community. Information derived from this study subsequently will be used toward development of an intervention targeting both community members and health care providers.

Improving HBV knowledge and preventive activity can in turn thwart both chronic HBV infection and the ensuing development of serious liver disease, including HCC, thereby reducing illness and death resulting from on of the most common cancers in the world. Because chronic HBV infection and HCC are responsible for wide racial/ethnic health disparities in the United States and worldwide, the potential knowledge to be gained from this study could be used to reduce the disproportionate burden of liver disease in persons of East Asian, Southeast Asian or other origins.

Christina A. Clarke, Ph.D.

Melanoma of the skin represents a substantial and growing component of the cancer burden in light-skinned populations. In California, melanoma rates in non-white populations are substantially lower than those in whites, but have been infrequently studied and are poorly understood. Recent data from the California Cancer Registry indicate increases in melanoma incidence in Hispanics.

Christina A. Clarke, PhD
Christina A. Clarke, PhD

 

Christina A. Clarke, Ph.D., a research scientist in the Surveillance Research division of the Northern California Cancer Center and a lecturer in the Division of Health Research and Policy at Stanford University Medical Center, is principal investigator on a study that will assess population-based incidence patterns of melanoma by race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and ultraviolet light exposure in the multiethnic state of California to specifically identify groups at risk for melanoma to be more effectively targeted for screening or public health intervention.

Her co-researchers for this truly interdisciplinary, multicenter study include Susan Swetter, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Dermatology, as well as experienced epidemiologists, dermatologists, a geographer and a biostatistician from the Northern California Cancer Center; Stanford University Medical Center; the California Cancer Registry; the U.S. Census; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The study has the potential to determine factors influencing melanoma survival or death. Precise descriptions of California populations at increased or under-recognized risk for melanoma could allow for targeted skin screening and awareness activities. Further, the project may identify additional populations for interventions aimed at early detection and prevention and, ultimately, reduced mortality from melanoma.

Posted: 11/14/06

 

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