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School and Program Updates

School and Program Updates

Cancer Prevention Research at Maryland

More than a dozen cancer prevention-focused research projects are underway at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.

Dr. Sunmin Lee is leading three studies. The first, Behavioral Intervention to Reduce Breast Cancer Disparity among Underserved Koreans (National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded), is a project that aims to improve the quality of life among Korean breast cancer survivors, and is one of the first to conduct a culturally and linguistically appropriate program developed for Korean women with breast cancer. Screening to Overcome and Prevent Colorectal Cancer among Chinese and Korean Americans (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-funded) aims to understand colorectal cancer screening behaviors among Chinese and Korean Americans and to learn about strategies to increase colorectal cancer screening in these populations. Finally, Lay Health Worker Model to Reduce Liver Cancer Disparities (NCI-funded), aimed to build a sustainable, liver cancer prevention program that is conducted by lay health workers in the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. This program was developed to be culturally and linguistically tailored to Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese Americans.

Project HEAL (NCI-funded), led by Dr. Cheryl Holt, works with area churches to educate laypeople and bring cancer information to congregations. Their latest research compares two methods of training lay peers on sharing information about breast, prostate and colorectal cancers. “The take-home point is, the use of technology to educate peers is promising when you consider scaling it up across geographical areas and larger numbers of people,” Dr. Holt said.

Dr. Cher Dallal will be using metabolomics, the study of the substances formed in metabolism, to look at racial disparities in breast cancer survival, thanks to a five-year American Cancer Society (ACS) Mentored Research Scholar Grant. For the study, Dr. Dallal will study 100 African-American and white breast cancer survivors, six to nine months after their treatment. The question researchers are seeking to answer: are physical activity and sedentary behaviors associated with metabolomic profiles among breast cancer survivors?

Dr. Mary Garza oversees the current NCI-funded research component of the Maryland Center for Health Equity’s (M-CHE) Health Advocates In-Reach and Research (HAIR) program, an investigation into the use of barbershops as a venue to promote colorectal screening for the African American community. In partnership with Cigna, Dr. Garza and M-CHE Director Dr. Stephen Thomas are leading the HAIR program to mobilize black barbershops and beauty salons in Prince George’s County and Washington, DC for health promotion and disease prevention. African-Americans have the highest rate for new cases of colorectal cancer and are the most likely to die from it. Barbers and stylists are recruited and trained to provide health promotion activities to educate about colorectal cancer. Barbershops and salons that participate host periodic visits from genetic counselors who conduct family health history surveys, as well as public health and medical professionals who provide a variety of health screenings and referrals as needed for further screenings/care.

Dr. Pamela Clark directs the FDA and NIH-funded University of Maryland Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science (UMD TCORS), which studies the characterization of manipulated tobacco products, and assesses alternative nicotine/tobacco products, such as hookah (water pipe), electronic nicotine delivery devices (e-cigarettes) and smokeless tobacco (snus). The UMD TCORS is one of 14 centers nationwide that provide the critical science base needed for the FDA to effectively regulate tobacco.

Finally, Cancer Prevention Research recently published Dr. Mei-Ling Ting Lee’s study showing epidemiologic associations that suggest populations consuming substantial amounts of dietary soy exhibit a lower risk of prostate cancer.