The Epidemiology (EPI) Program is one of the founding programs at the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center (UHCC), and currently composed of 11 full members and 2 associate members, who are molecular, genetic and nutritional epidemiologists, biostatistician and bioinformatician with primary appointments at UHCC. The EPI Program has made significant progress in recent years, and the EPI faculty have contributed substantially to the Cancer Center's research. During the current funding cycle, the Program members have published more than 400 cancer-related research articles in peer-reviewed journals, rising from 214 in the previous funding cycle, and obtained $20.5 million research grants from NIH increasing from $16.1 million in the previous grant cycle. Recently, the EPI Program has recruited a new program leader who is a molecular epidemiologist with 30 years of cancer research experience, and he brings to the Program more translational research and interdisciplinary collaboration for further development and growth of the Program. The goal of the EPI Program is to identify environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors that are attributable to the risk of cancer development and progression in populations with diverse race and ethnicity, and use the knowledge to develop strategies and programs to reduce cancer risk and prolong patient survival. To achieve this goal, members of the EPI Program focus on 3 areas of research emphasis which are under the overarching theme of racial/ethnic diversity. The 3 research areas are 1) genetic susceptibility, 2) nutrition and lifestyle and 3) infectious agents. Under each area of research emphasis, the Program has multiple current and future aims. To achieve these aims, the Program has established and maintained valuable resources which include Hawaii Tumor Registry, Multiethnic Cohort, HPV Cohorts, Colorectal Cancer Family Registry, and Residual Tissue Repository. Using these unique resources, the Program members have completed a large number of research projects which include many molecular and genetic epidemiological studies that address the role of single nucleotide polymorphisms in genetic susceptibility to cancer. Numerous genetic polymorphisms have been investigated for their association with the risk of several major cancers, including the breast, prostate, colon, lung, endometrium and ovary. These studies have contributed significantly to our understanding of cancer genetics and susceptibility. EPI focus in this area will continue to expand to include more genetic features, their interaction with environmental and lifestyle factors and their involvement In tumor progression and treatment response. The EPI Program has also accomplished significantly in the research area of nutrition and lifestyle in cancer. The multiethnic cohort was established initially focusing mainly on diet and nutrition. Numerous studies have been conducted on the cohort to understand diet and nutrition in cancer in different ethnic groups. Gene-nutrition interaction and lifestyle-related epigenetic changes will be new focuses in this area. HPV research by the EPI faculty also generates valuable information on viral infection and cancer risk. Future research in this area will focus on more infectious agents and their interaction with epigenetic regulation in cancer etiology, detection and prevention. The EPI Program has significant interaction with other programs at the Cancer Center through focus groups, research collaboration, faculty training, seminars and other joint activities. The interactions foster strong collaborations that facilitate interdisciplinary and translational research at the Cancer Center to achieve the goal of reducing the cancer burden among people in Hawai'i.
Accelerating progress in reducing the risk for cancer and prolonging life depends on the careful identification of environmental, lifestyle, and genetic risk factors among diverse racial/ethnic groups. Enhancing our understanding of these risks will advance progress in identifying specific targets so that this information can be translated into intervention and clinical studies that ultimately reduce the burden of cancer.
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