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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Georgia Cancer Prevention Initiatives

This year, 57,000 Georgians will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 17,000 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Nationwide, more than 600,000 people will die from some form of cancer, more than 1,800 of them children.

At the University of Georgia College of Public Health faculty members are working on multiple fronts to reduce those numbers with research efforts that range from prevention to communication.

Projects underway:

Dr. Jenay Beer, assistant professor in health promotion and behavior and Institute of Gerontology, has received a $106,480 grant to develop an app-facilitated mindfulness-based stress reduction intervention for lung cancer survivors. The funding, sub-contracted through the University of South Carolina Research Fund, is a part of a two-year $750,000 grant awarded from Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. The long-term goal of the project is to improve clinical outcomes for survivors of non-small cell lung cancer and their family members in South Carolina, a state where lung cancer incidence and mortality exceeds the national average.  Dr. Beer lead the development of a statewide network of community and clinical stakeholders with an interest in lung cancer to maximize community involvement and build capacity for survivorship care support services. She and her collaborators will adapt and test a mobile application intervention utilizing the evidence-based Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery program as a foundation. The team will then evaluate the feasibility and preliminary effects of the intervention, which consists of breathing retraining exercises, mindfulness-based meditation, yoga for varying skill levels, and participant interaction designed specifically to address issues of importance to survivors of lung cancer and their family members.

Dr. Jia-Sheng Wang, UGA Athletic Association Professor in Public Health and head of the department of environmental health science, was recently awarded the 2018 Translational Impact Award from the Society of Toxicology for his cancer prevention research. Dr. Wang was a key investigator for a chemoprevention trial of the drug Oltipraz in Qidong, China, knowns the first translational study in cancer research. The drug was found to protect individuals against the carcinogenic effects of aflatoxin exposure. Aflatoxins are produced by molds that grow in soil and on hay and grains, and repeated exposure to them can increase the risk of cancer and other harmful health outcomes.  Oltipraz, however, carried side effects that made it unsuitable for consumer use, which prompted Dr. Wang to devote his research to identifying natural products that may mitigate the effects of aflatoxin. Dr. Wang’s studies showed that green tea polyphenols were not only able to modulate oxidative damage to DNA, which can lead to cancer, but also prevent chronic bone loss in post-menopausal women. In trials conducted in Africa and Texas, NovaSil clay supplements were shown to successfully lessen the effects of aflatoxin. More recently, Dr. Wang has developed a method to identify aflatoxin exposure levels using dry blood spots. This method, which only requires a small finger prick, is ideal for testing toxin levels in infants.

Dr. Kevin Dobbin and Dr. Xiao Song, associate professors in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics are in the midst of a two-year, $358,0875 grant from the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health to develop novel methods for converting promising predictive cancer biomarkers into clinical tests that can be used to guide patient therapeutic decisions. Recent advances in biotechnology and bioinformatics are producing a wide array of novel targeted anti-cancer therapies.  Many of these therapies target specific biological pathways in the tumor, and predictive biomarkers can be used to identify a tumor’s weak spots and which therapies will work best.

Recent research:

A recent study by health policy and management associate professor Dr. Zhuo “Adam” Chen found that a sharp rise in the number of women seeking BRCA genetic testing for breast cancer was driven by multiple factors, including endorsements from celebrities such as Ms. Angelina Jolie.

A study led by Dr. David DeJoy, emeritus professor of health promotion and behavior, found that healthcare workers more likely to handle chemo drugs safely when management makes safety a priority.

Dr. Carolyn Lauckner, assistant professor in health promotion and behavior (and one of our newest faculty members), examined the effects, as well as the preferences, for viewing online cancer information among patients’ friends and family members for a 2017 study published in the journal Computers, Informatics, Nursing.

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