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School & Program Updates

A Snapshot of Cancer Initiatives at UCLA

Researchers at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health (FSPH) are leading several projects aimed at investigating the causes of cancer, preventative strategies and best practices for cancer-related care. The following are just a few of many ongoing initiatives.

FSPH Distinguished Professor Dr. Patricia Ganz, is director of the Cancer Prevention & Control Research at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Care Center, which aims to serve as a major source of discovery of the nature of cancer and of the development of more effective approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and therapy. Dr. Ganz’s work related to evidence-based cancer care, cancer survivorship, quality of care, and breast cancer outcomes has been published in over 400 peer-reviewed publications. In a paper published in December 2017, Dr. Ganz and a collective of hundreds of colleagues identified ten genetic variants associated with risk of estrogen-receptor-negative breast cancer.

More than ten years after its introduction, uptake of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine among U.S. adolescents remains low. To address this problem, Dr. Roshan Bastani, professor of health policy and management at FSPH, director of disparities and community engagement and co-director of prevention and control research at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Care Center, will lead a $6.6 million research study awarded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to investigate the comparative effectiveness of strategies designed to increase vaccine adoption.

A s the principal investigator of two multi-year National Institutes of Health grants, Dr. Karin Michels, professor and chair of epidemiology at FSPH, and colleagues are working with a cohort of 515 prepubertal Chilean girls to investigate the impact of a variety of factors on early markers of breast cancer risk. In a recent study, researchers reported that a higher consumption of sweetened, artificially flavored milk-based drinks is associated with greater breast density, while higher yogurt intake is associated with lower breast density and delayed age at menarche.

Research led by Dr. Zuo-Feng Zhang, associate dean for research and professor of epidemiology at FSPH, focused on factors that increase the susceptibility of the Chinese population to certain cancers. Dr. Zhang and his former FSPH postdoctoral fellow Dr. Jin-Kou Zhao, have conducted a population-based, case-control study of the lifestyle, behavioral, environmental, and genetic factors associated with China’s four most common cancers. Between 2003 and 2010, Drs. Zhang, Zhao, and their colleagues collected data from more than 10,000 individuals with one of these four cancers, as well as more than 8,000 healthy controls, in four counties of Jiangsu province. They reported associations between tobacco smoking and all four cancers; alcohol consumption and the risk of liver and esophageal cancers; a family history of cancer and the risk of esophageal, stomach and liver cancers; and low education and the risk of esophageal, stomach and liver cancers.

Dr. Beate Ritz, professor of epidemiology and environmental health sciences, and Dr. Julia Heck, associate professor of epidemiology, have worked on several studies exploring factors that may lead to childhood cancer. One study authored by Drs. Ritz and Heck, and colleagues, suggested an association between parental occupational chemical exposures and the risk of sporadic retinoblastoma amongst their children. Another study authored by them with various colleagues reported that older parental age was a risk factor for various childhood cancers in Danish children and a study that used data from the California Cancer Registry reported that maternal preeclampsia is associated with higher odds of some rare childhood cancers.

Since these are just a few of many cancer-related projects happening at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, please visit our website for additional information.