The University of Florida department of epidemiology at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine is increasing diversity of the participant pool for cancer research studies, and tracking all activity to describe outcomes. The project is conducted through HealthStreet, a community engagement model that seeks to reduce health care disparities and improve access to research studies among people who are medically underserved by meeting residents out in the community and linking them to services and research opportunities.
The HealthStreet cohort has more than 7,500 community members from Northeast Florida. Each community member is assessed for health needs, concerns and research perceptions. Prior to this effort, HealthStreet’s Community Health Workers did not specifically target persons with cancer for recruitment. The new project is facilitating navigations and enrollments to UF Cancer Center studies, improving cancer research to make it more person-centered, increasing diversity of research participants in cancer trials, and pilot testing an intervention to assess its effect on enrollment and retention.
The HealthStreet intervention to increase diversity of participants in cancer research studies is led by Dr. Linda Cottler, chair of the department of epidemiology, founder and director of HealthStreet, and the PHHP associate dean for research and planning; and Dr. Catherine Striley, Health Street co-director and an assistant professor in the department. To date there are 535 persons who self-reported a history of cancer. The most prevalent cancers reported are skin, breast, cervical and prostate; 38 percent of those with cancer and 46 percent of those without cancer are underrepresented minorities.
In another project, Dr. Volker Mai and Dr. Mattia Prosperi, associate professors in the UF department of epidemiology, have received a new $400,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute to support a study entitled “Big data approach for correlating gut microbiota with epithelial methylation pattern.”
“We are excited about the opportunity to work together on a project aimed at developing new approaches for analyzing a large multi-dimensional dataset to link gut microbiota composition with methylation pattern in order to predict colorectal cancer risk,” Dr. Mai said.