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Overview

The unique aspect of Howard University Cancer Center (HUCC) is our natural ability and strength to address cancer disparities with an emphasis on those cancers that disproportionately impact African-Americans, in particular. There are three overarching programmatic areas in the Cancer Center: (1) cancer biology; (2) cancer etiology; and (3) cancer prevention, control, and population sciences; whereby cancer disparities represent the underlying theme of the research focus.

HUCC has had a long history of serving minorities and underserved populations and addressing disparities. Thus, the mission of HUCC is to reduce the burden of cancer through research, education, and service, with emphasis on the unique ethnic and cultural aspects of minority and underserved populations.

The ultimate goal of the Cancer Biology Program is to translate basic laboratory results from the bench to the bedside. To accomplish this goal, the members of this program focus on biochemical, molecular, and genetic mechanisms related specifically to those cancers that disproportionately impact African-Americans, in particular. Research in this program addresses targeted drug delivery as well as new techniques that can be used to design and synthesize drugs.

The Cancer Biology Program incorporates expertise in the areas of biochemistry, chemistry, physics, pathology, molecular biology, genetics, microbiology, pharmacology, radiation oncology, and surgical oncology. Research activities that are currently underway in the cancer biology program include the following: (1) prostate cancer genetics; (2) methylation profiling and risk of colorectal cancer; (3) differential transcription factor activation of H. pylori; (4) triple negative breast cancer in young African-American women; (5) nicotine, biogenic amines and depression; and (6) in vivo NMR spectroscopy for noninvasive pharmacokinetics, as examples.

The Cancer Etiology Program focuses on epidemiologic research among predominantly African-Americans and underserved populations. This program examines risk factors that increase or decrease the likelihood of developing cancer risk and its precursors. This research program includes cohort and population studies, molecular genetics, and biochemical markers of exposure. The major focus is on studies that address cancer incidence, morbidity, and mortality with emphasis on diet/nutrition, physical activity, and other behavioral factors as well as genetic factors among African-Americans and Africans.

The Cancer Etiology program includes faculty with expertise in epidemiology, oncology, biostatistics, nutrition, genetics, behavioral and social sciences, and exercise physiology.

The Cancer Prevention, Control and Population Science Program’s goal is to reduce the burden of cancer measured by incidence, morbidity, and mortality utilizing behavioral and clinical research interventions. The interventions focus on lifestyle factors including tobacco, nutrition, and exercise in an effort to reduce cancer risk and improve quality of life among minorities and underserved populations.

The studies of screening behaviors as well as the development of new diagnostic tools for early detection are critical in reducing the burden of cancer is a part of the Prevention program. This program addresses health disparities by developing culturally sensitive interventions specific to African-Americans and other minority populations.

Studies are conducted that assess the impact of select behavioral interventions for smoking cessation/tobacco control, diet, and physical activity and screening on cancer risk. African-Americans and other minority populations are able to participate in NCI supported clinical trials via the Minority Based Community Clinical Oncology Program.