The Cancer Epidemiology Program (CEP) is an interdisciplinary research program organized into three scientific areas, each related to a type of cancer risk factor: (1) Viral Risk Factors, (2) Hormonal, Obesity, and Inflammation- Related Risk Factors, and (3) Genetic and Epigenetic Risk Factors. Viral Risk Factor research in the CEP focuses extensively on human papillomavirus (HPV) and its role in anogenital and oral cancers. The CEP has long been a major contributor to HPV research. The goal of this research is to contribute new information important to the development of cancer screening practices, HPV vaccine strategies, and other new prevention and treatment methods. This includes studies of the viral and host factors associated with HPV persistence/progression;biomarkers of cervical and anal pre-cancer/cancer;the effectiveness of HPV vaccines in high risk populations;and the impact of microbicides on risk of HPV infection. In addition. Viral Risk Factor research in CEP addresses the effects of HIV/AIDS on cancer, including studies of the immunologic deficits that drive the relationship of HIV with HPV-related tumorigenesis and risk of other AIDS-associated cancers. Hormonal/Obesity/inflammation research in CEP focuses extensively on the role of the insulin/IGF-axis, sex hormones, adipocytokines, and related pathways in obesity-associated cancers (e.g., colon, breast, prostate, etc.). This includes prospective studies of tumor incidence/recurrence/progression and their relation with circulating and local tissue levels of proteins in these pathways and the expression of their receptors. Given the US obesity epidemic these studies are timely, and will contribute to ongoing efforts to identify biomarkers in these pathways that can be used for patient risk stratification, and/or as targets for chemoprevention and treatment. Genetic and Epigenetic research in CEP focuses extensively on germline and somatic mutations, genetic polymorphisms, DNA methylation, and microRNAs. These studies examine the signaling pathways related to oncogenesis, tumor biomarkers important for selecting and developing targeted therapies, and genetic/epigenetic risk factors that can be used for patient risk stratification. CEP investigators are also conducting methodologic studies to improve the laboratory and statistical tools available for conducting genetic and epigenetic research. The CEP currently has 26 members from 11 departments, of whom 11 are new members, supported by 15 NCI grants ($3.7M Direct), and 11 other peer-reviewed cancer-relevant grants ($2.7M Direct). Since the last CCSG review there have been 414 cancer-relevant research papers in the CEP of which 29% represent intraprogrammatic and 18% represent interprogrammatic publications.
Members of this program study populations to identify risk factors for cancer in order to identify ways of preventing cancer. There is a special interest in: (i) viral infections that cause cancer such as the human papillomavirus that causes cervical cancer, (ii) the role of obesity and diabetes in cancer causation, and (iii) factors that increase the risk of breast cancer. These studies also provide valuable information relevant to the development of guidelines for screening.
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