Think Tank on Understudied Populations in Cancer Epidemiologic Research: Implications for Future Needs

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Tram K. Lam, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Program Director, Environmental Epidemiology Branch

Damali N. Martin, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Program Director, Genomic Epidemiology Branch


Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. The cancer burden, however, is differentially distributed across racial and ethnic groups. In the coming decades of the 21st century, demographic and cultural transformations in the United States will develop as minority groups (e.g., Asians, Hispanics, African Americans) will comprise 51% of the population by 2050. The implications for cancer (e.g., cancer incidence, mortality, outcomes, prevention strategies, treatment, and outcomes) are significant.

These disparities extend beyond race and ethnicity to other populations that are increasing in the United States—for example, immigrants, including refugees; the elderly; and populations that are marginalized by geographic location or sexual orientation—and whose cancer burden currently is understudied. Because of the lack of studies on these diverse groups, limited epidemiologic data on relevant health risks and outcomes are available to inform evidence-based cancer control, prevention, and intervention efforts. In addition, studies that examine cancer epidemiology within these populations are limited or nonexistent in the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) and National Institute of Health's (NIH) biomedical research portfolio. The dearth of knowledge regarding these groups underscores the urgency to begin a purposeful engagement of stakeholders to facilitate research and improve knowledge regarding cancer risks and outcomes within these understudied populations.


To address this demographic transformation, NCI's Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program (EGRP) hosted a meeting entitled, "Think Tank on Understudied Populations in Cancer Epidemiologic Research: Implications for Future Needs," to identify opportunities and resources to expand efforts to bridge the scientific gaps and set research priorities in cancer epidemiology for understudied populations. Information from Think Tank discussions will be used to inform future scientific initiatives and broaden the conversation to the larger scientific community. The long-term goal is to promote epidemiologic research that will help to inform evidence-based cancer prevention and control guidelines and policies in understudied populations.


View agenda for Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tuesday, September 8 Topic
8:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. Think Tank Sign-In
9:00 a.m. - 9:20 a.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks
Damali N. Martin, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Program Director, Genomic Epidemiology Branch
Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program (EGRP)
Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Morning Session
9:20 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.

Understudied Populations: Ancestral and Cultural Background

Julie Palmer, Sc.D.
Senior Epidemiologist, Slone Epidemiology Center/Boston University School of Public Health

  • "Research Aimed at Remedying Racial/Ethnic Cancer Disparities"
    William Blot, Ph.D.
    Associate Director for Population-Based Research, Vanderbilt University
  • "Cancer Epidemiology in Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders: Accelerating Cancer Knowledge by Leveraging Heterogeneity"
    Scarlett Gomez, Ph.D., M.P.H.
    Epidemiologist, Cancer Prevention Institute of California
  • "Inquiring Minds Want to Know Why American Indians/Alaska Natives Continue to Live With Cancer Disparities"
    Linda Burhansstipanov, Dr.P.H., M.S.P.H.
    Director of Native American Cancer Initiatives, University of North Carolina
  • "Cancer Epidemiologic Research in Hispanic/Latino Populations: Implications for Future Needs"
    Elena Martinez, Ph.D.
    Professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of California at San Diego
11:00 a.m. - 11:10 a.m. Break
Attendees will be responsible for meals and light refreshments on their own.
11:10 p.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Understudied Populations: Geographical Context

Jarvis Chen, Sc.D.
Research Scientist, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Harvard University

  • "Cancer Epidemiology in Rural Populations"
    Mark Dignan, Ph.D., M.P.H.
    Professor, Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky
  • "New Perspectives on Measuring Graphic Context"
    Mario Schootman, Ph.D.
    Epidemiologist, College for Public Health and Social Justice, Saint Louis University
  • "The U.S.-Mexico Border, Where the 1st World Collides with the 3rd World: Implications and Challenges"
    Hugo Vilchis, M.D., M.P.H.
    Director, Border Epidemiology and Environmental Health Center, New Mexico State University
12:30 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. Lunch
Attendees will be responsible for meals and light refreshments on their own.
Afternoon Session
1:30 p.m. - 2:50 p.m.

Understudied Populations: Special Populations

"Including Small and Marginalized Populations in the Big Picture: A Focus on Refugee, Immigrant, Elderly, and Sexual Minority Communities"
Kimlin Ashing-Giwa, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Community Alliance for Research and Education, City of Hope Cancer Center

  • "Cancer Disparities and the LGBT Communities: Future Research Needs"
    Alicia Matthews, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Nursing, Institute for Health Research and Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • "Disparities in Health and Data Among Resettled Refugees in the United States"
    Alexander Vu, D.O., M.P.H.
    Director of International Emergency and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health

    Eliseo Perez-Stable, M.D.
    Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institutes of Health
2:50 p.m. - 4:20 p.m. World Café
  • Overview of World Café (10 mins.)
  • Small-Group Discussions
    • Round 1 (20 mins.)
    • Round 2 (20 mins.)
    • Round 3 (15 mins.)
    • Round 4 (15 mins.)
4:20 p.m. - 4:40 p.m. Break
4:40 p.m. - 5:10 p.m. Report-Out and Overview of Next Day
Tram K. Lam, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Program Director, Environmental Epidemiology Branch, EGRP, DCCPS, NCI
5:10 p.m. Adjournment

View agenda for Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wednesday, September 9 Topic
Morning Session
9:00 a.m. - 9:10 a.m. Call to Order and Review of Previous Day
Introduction of Kathy Cronin
Damali N. Martin, Ph.D., M.P.H.
Program Director, Genomic Epidemiology Branch, EGRP, DCCPS, NCI
9:10 a.m. - 9:40 a.m. Strategic Vision for the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS)
Kathy Cronin, Ph.D.
Deputy Associate Director, Surveillance Research Program, DCCPS, NCI
9:40 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Provocative Questions Discussion
10:30 a.m. - 10:40 a.m. Break
10:40 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Provocative Questions Discussion, continued
12:00 p.m. - 12:10 p.m. Next Steps
L. Michelle Bennett, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Research Strategy, NCI
12:10 p.m. Think Tank Adjournment

Planning Committee