Population Science and Cancer Control
To understand and impact factors associated with cancer risk in clinical, safety-net, and community settings, among diverse populations.
Drawing from the large and diverse population that the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center serves, the Population Science and Cancer Control Program has a special focus on uninsured residents served by local public health systems. Studies are centered on cancer disparities among subpopulations of individuals who traditionally are medically underserved.
Research focuses on processes of care, with the goal of translating findings into improved cancer care in local health systems. The 25 members of the Population Science Program are based in five departments plus at the University of Texas School of Public Health’s Dallas campus.
- Cancer prevention (including the study of biomarkers for colon and liver cancers, and of risk prevention behaviors)
- Screening for early detection of colon, liver, and esophageal cancers
- Cancer survivorship
Parkland-UT Southwestern PROSPR Center. Supported by the establishment in 2011 of the Parkland-UT Southwestern PROSPR Center, researchers in the Population Science and Cancer Control Program are identifying efficient strategies for increasing routine screening that will reduce colorectal cancer incidence and mortality, especially among under—and uninsured patients. Program members’ research has shown, for instance, that colorectal screening rates can be substantially increased among patients who receive mailed fecal immunochemical test kits compared with usual care or an invitation for colonoscopy.
Investigators also are tracking all aspects of the colon cancer screening process for a racially/ethnically diverse group of about 70,000 primary-care patients seen in Parkland Health and Hospital System’s 12 community-based clinics—from identification of need for screening through test outcomes, follow-up, treatment and surveillance, or return to a routine screening schedule. In 2014, the PROSPR Center’s funding was expanded to incorporate cervical cancer screening research, enabling investigators to follow a diverse group of about 178,000 screening-eligible women in the Parkland system, and to develop educational and routine practice interventions to boost HPV vaccination rates.
- [Selected citation: Singal, A.G. et al. Outreach invitations for FIT and colonoscopy improve colorectal cancer screening rates: A randomized controlled trial in a safety-net health system. Cancer 122, 456-63 (2016).]
Early detection of liver cancer. A thriving research effort is evaluating strategies to improve screening effectiveness and ensure that more people at high risk for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common form of liver cancer, receive appropriate testing so tumors can be detected earlier and treated more effectively. Population Science program members are key investigators for the multi-institution Texas HCC Consortium, a $9.7 million initiative funded by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. Consortium projects include characterizing factors that predict liver cancer in a diverse group of patients with cirrhosis, evaluating novel biomarkers to increase sensitivity for early tumor detection, and a trial comparing interventions to boost screening rates in at-risk patients.
- [Selected citation: Singal, A.G. et al. Early detection, curative treatment and survival rates for HCC surveillance in patients with cirrhosis: a meta-analysis. PLoS Med 11, e10011624 (2014).]
To Get Involved
The program seeks additional scientists and physicians with training in a broad range of population science disciplines to develop collaborative cancer prevention and control research projects.
Topics of interest include, but are not limited to, identification of risk factors across the cancer continuum; development and evaluation of interventions to improve health behaviors, health care practices, and patient-provider communication; and surveillance of cancer care delivery along the disease spectrum from prevention and early detection through survivorship.
Contact Dr. Tiro for more details about the program, meetings, and more. firstname.lastname@example.org
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