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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

UCLA: Small Changes, Big Implications

Pancreatic cancer is treatable when detected early, but since symptoms rarely occur until the disease has spread to other organs, the vast majority of cases are diagnosed in the later stages, making it among the most lethal tumors. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate following a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is 9 percent. It is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.

Mr. Brian Huang, a fourth-year PhD student at the UCLA Jonathan and Karin Fielding School of Public Health, was drawn to FSPH’s Cancer Epidemiology Training Program by the potential public health impact that could come from research identifying early, detectable signs of the disease, and factors that increase pancreatic cancer risk. “There’s so much mystery around how pancreatic cancer develops, which is why by the time it’s diagnosed, it’s often too late,” Mr. Huang says. “I hope my research can contribute to early detection and prevention strategies.”

As a cornerstone of public health, epidemiology has historically identified environmental and behavioral factors that either promote health or contribute to disease risk in populations. Beginning in 1997, the Fielding School’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Epidemiology Training Program was among the first to train cancer epidemiologists in molecular epidemiology — a then-emerging branch of the discipline, fueled by the rapid advances in molecular biology and genetics.

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