December 2019 Cancer Epidemiology Matters E-News
Cancer Epidemiology Matters E-News
- Message from Associate Director, Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program
Message from Associate Director, Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program
On behalf of all my colleagues in the Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program (EGRP), we wish you all peace, health, and happiness throughout the holiday season and in the New Year. It’s hard to believe January will be the start of a new decade. We greatly appreciate all the work that you in the broader scientific community do to advance our shared goals to improve public health and the health of those diagnosed with cancer.
We are happy to report that the overall number of funded projects that EGRP oversees increased in fiscal year 2019, as did the number of investigators supported by the Early Stage Investigator mechanism.
Members of our group have been very active in activities related to the Cancer Moonshot Initiative in collaboration with members of other Programs and Offices across the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) more broadly. EGRP staff have also continued to develop funding announcements for other areas of research, as you will see in the funding opportunities list below.
In our final newsletter of 2019, we highlight some staffing changes, new funding opportunities our scientific staff have developed, and briefly review our scientific workshops and webinars.
Kathy J. Helzlsouer, M.D., M.H.S.
Staffing Changes in EGRP
Office of the Associate Director
At the end of December, Dr. Emily Harris, EGRP’s Deputy Associate Director, will retire. In this role, Dr. Harris provided support and expertise in planning, developing, and implementing EGRP’s long-term scientific goals and activities, the annual budget cycle and processes, and enhancing collaborations across the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences.
Dr. Harris previously served as Chief of the Translational Genomics Research Branch at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research from 2008-2017. She also worked as an epidemiologist at the National Human Genome Research Institute from 2006-2008.
Dr. Harris’s scientific interests include the interplay of genetic and environmental factors in cancer susceptibility, modifiers of risk in high-risk families, and integrating family history and genetics into health care. She has authored more than 100 scientific publications during her career.
While at NIH, Dr. Harris has participated in numerous prominent trans-NIH working groups and initiatives, including the development and implementation of NIH’s genomics data sharing policy; the Gabriella Miller Kids First program; the Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) initiative; the Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program; the Human Heredity and Health in Africa initiative; the Genes, Environment and Health Initiative (GEI); and the Genetic Association Information Network (GAIN). Dr. Harris was also a member of the Center for Inherited Disease Research (CIDR) Board of Governors, and the Sexual and Gender Minority Research Coordinating Committee.
Before coming to NIH, Dr. Harris was a Senior Investigator with Kaiser Permanente Northwest and a Clinical Associate Professor with the Oregon Health & Science University. She also was an Assistant Professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health. During her research career, Dr. Harris was the Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator on more than 20 epidemiologic studies of a variety of conditions, including iron overload and hereditary hemochromatosis, hereditary cancers, osteoporotic fractures, type 2 diabetes, periodontal disease susceptibility, and congenital malformations.
Dr. Harris has been a wonderful colleague and leader and will be greatly missed. We are thankful for all she has contributed to NCI, NIH, and the broader scientific community and wish her all the best in retirement.
Risk Factor Assessment Branch
In September, Dr. Jill Reedy was appointed as the Chief of EGRP’s Risk Factor Assessment Branch (RFAB). Previously, she was a Program Director in RFAB. Dr. Reedy first joined NCI as a Cancer Prevention Fellow.
As Branch Chief, Dr. Reedy oversees EGRP’s research portfolio and initiatives that focus on dietary and physical activity assessment; methods, tools, technologies, and resources for risk factor assessment; and obesity policy research.
Dr. Reedy’s scientific interests include different methodological approaches in dietary pattern analysis, dietary surveillance, obesity policy, new technologies for dietary assessment, and measures of the food environment.
Dr. Reedy currently leads the Dietary Patterns Methods Project, a collaboration with investigators from three large U.S. cohorts, which aims to systematically examine index-based scoring systems using standardized methods with cancer mortality outcomes.
Dr. Reedy also partners with colleagues at NIH for the NIH Nutrition Research Task Force and the NIH Obesity Policy Research Grantees Network. She collaborates with colleagues at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research (NCCOR) to develop research resources, including the Dietary Assessment Primer, the Healthy Eating Index, and the NCCOR Measures Registry and Catalogue of Surveillance Systems.
Dr. Reedy is a member of the Data Analysis Team for the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and she has served in a similar capacity for past Dietary Guidelines. She also serves on the Senior Leadership Group for the NIH Nutrition Research Task Force and leads several trans-NIH working groups as well as the NIH Obesity Policy Research Grantees Network.
Dr. Amy Subar retired as Chief of RFAB at the end of June. Dr. Subar retired with more than 30 years of service to NCI. Although we miss having her here on a daily basis, we are grateful that we continue to benefit from Dr. Subar’s knowledge, expertise, and mentorship as a Special Volunteer for NCI. On December 5, Dr. Subar received an individual career/lifetime achievement award from the NCI Director for her exceptional contributions to the field of nutrition research. She also received the David Kritchevsky Career Achievement Award in Nutrition during the 2019 American Society of Nutrition meeting in June. Congratulations, Dr. Subar! More details about Dr. Subar’s career and scientific contributions are described in our June newsletter.
Environmental Epidemiology Branch
In September, Dr. Curt DellaValle joined EGRP’s Environmental Epidemiology Branch as a Program Director.
His responsibilities include overseeing a research portfolio of grants and initiatives related to exposure assessment and cancer risk associated with exposure to environmental toxicants.
Before joining EGRP, Dr. DellaValle was a Health Science Administrator and Program Officer in NIH’s All of Us Research Program, where he coordinated and administered the cooperative agreement for the Data and Research Center for the Research Program.
Dr. DellaValle first joined NCI in 2010 as a post-doctoral fellow in the Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics (DCEG), where he developed and conducted epidemiologic studies investigating environmental pollutants and risk of cancer development. He then went on to work as a Senior Scientist for the Environmental Working Group in Washington, D.C., where he led their Cancer Prevention Initiative. Dr. DellaValle returned to NCI in 2017 as a Scientific Program Analyst for Global Solutions Network, Inc., where he coordinated multiple research projects in cancer epidemiology, genetics, and environmental exposures for DCEG’s Integrative Tumor Epidemiology Branch.
EGRP’s complete staff list can be viewed at https://epi.grants.cancer.gov/staff/.
Cancer MoonshotSM Initiative
Over the past few years, many EGRP staff have been involved with NCI’s implementation teams for the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. In 2019, EGRP team members participated in NCI’s efforts to:
- Establish a network for direct patient engagement by developing funding announcements for Participant Engagement and Cancer Genome Sequencing (PE-CGS) Research Centers (RFA-CA-19-045) and a Coordinating Center (RFA-CA-19-046) and hosting a symposium focused on personal control of genomic data sharing ;
- Improve prevention and early detection of hereditary cancers by overseeing progress on funded research projects submitted in response to a funding opportunity announcement intended to identify optimal approaches to increase case ascertainment and appropriate follow-up care for individuals at high risk of cancer due to an inherited genetic susceptibility;
- Improve our understanding of multifactorial causes of health disparities through exploring complex interactions between biology, behavior and the environment that play a role in aggressive prostate cancer and the poor outcomes experienced by African-American men; and
- Advance pediatric, adolescent, and young adult cancer survivor research by supporting the development and testing of interventions to improve healthcare delivery or to prevent and/or mitigate long-term adverse effects through a funding opportunity associated with the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access and Research (STAR) Act and the Cancer Moonshot.
EGRP joins with other Divisions, Offices, and Centers at NCI and other NIH Institutes to fund investigator-initiated research and applications submitted in response to Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs). EGRP supports projects in the United States and globally. Learn more about active cancer epidemiology projects.
Several new and re-issued FOAs, in which EGRP staff serve as scientific contacts, were published in 2019, including:
- Biology of Bladder Cancer: These FOAs encourage applications investigating the biology and underlying mechanisms driving the initiation, progression, and malignancy of bladder cancer, which is a significant health problem in the United States and globally. View PAR-19-183 (R01) and PAR-19-184 (R21) for more information about these FOAs.
- Clinical Characterization of Cancer Therapy-Induced Sequelae and Mechanism-Based Interventional Strategies: This FOA aims to support basic, translational, and/or clinical research projects designed to address adverse sequelae of cancer therapies that persist and become chronic comorbidities or develop as delayed post-treatment effects. View PAR-19-325 (R01) for more details.
- Co-Infection and Cancer: The overall purpose of these FOAs are to enhance mechanistic and epidemiologic investigations addressing the roles of co-infection (the occurrence of infections by two or more infectious agents either concurrently or sequentially) and cancer to shed light on presently unestablished pathways in carcinogenesis that may inform prevention and treatment strategies for infection-related cancers. View PAR-20-062 (R01) and PAR-20-061 (R21) for more details.
Additionally, EGRP staff serve as scientific contacts for the following Notices of Special Interest (NOSI):
- Geospatial Approaches in Cancer Control and Population Sciences (NOT-CA-20-004)
- Use of Biological Information to Understand How the Interplay of Environmental Exposures and Genes Influences Cancer Risk (NOT-CA-20-002)
More information about the FOAs listed above, and other FOAs sponsored or co-sponsored by EGRP that are currently accepting applications are available on EGRP’s website. For more information about NIH’s expanded use of NOSIs in FY2019, see our July 2019 newsletter article.
Scientific Meetings and Webinars
In collaboration with other NCI and NIH programs, EGRP brought together experts and interested individuals to collaborate on finding solutions to pressing scientific questions and research needs.
- EGRP sponsored a workshop to facilitate cancer systems epidemiology research on February 28 and March 1, 2019, which facilitated an interdisciplinary discussion about the application of systems modeling approaches for population-based cancer research. The workshop website contains links to recorded presentations and key references related to systems epidemiology.
- In April 2019, EGRP collaborated with staff in NCI’s Division of Cancer Biology, Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, and Division of Cancer Prevention to host a workshop to inform future trans-NIH initiatives to support basic research, epidemiology and translational liver cancer research to understand the mechanisms of viral and non-viral causes of liver fibrosis and the progression to liver cancer.
- The annual meeting of the NCI Cohort Consortium was held in November of 2019 in Rockville, Maryland, and had the largest in-person attendance to date for this annual meeting. In addition to several scientific working group meetings, a day-long session provided the consortium’s final strategic plan, which was the result of prior strategic planning sessions held during the 2017 and 2018 annual meetings. There were also presentations on returning genetic research results to participants, progress on the Virtual Pooled Registry and its use in cancer ascertainment, the integration of geospatial data into cohort studies, and consortium project presentations on best practices and lessons learned. A newly formed Associate Member Council was developed to help foster increased involvement in the consortium by early career investigators. We thank Dr. Celine Vachon, the outgoing chair of the steering committee and welcome Dr. Lynne Wilkens as the new chair of the steering committee.
- EGRP also collaborated with the Behavioral Research Program in NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences and the National Institute on Aging to convene a think tank on cancer and accelerated aging in February focused on strategies to prevent or remediate cancer- and treatment-associated aging. Later this year, “Perspectives on Cancer and Aging: The Arti Hurria Memorial Webinar Series,” was introduced to create a community of researchers dedicated to cancer and aging research. The first webinar, held in October, discussed the history of geriatric oncology in the U.S., along with current research priorities in cancer and aging, including “accelerated aging,” and collaborative efforts for cancer and aging research.
- In addition to offering webcasts for many of the meetings listed above, EGRP organized 20 webinars in 2019 for five recurring webinar series focused on topics related to cancer epidemiologic research in understudied populations, ethical and regulatory issues in cancer research (a partnership between EGRP and NCI’s Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis), infectious agents and cancer epidemiology research, rare cancers, and sequencing strategies for population-based studies. EGRP also hosted five pre-application webinars for various funding opportunity announcements throughout the year.
More details about upcoming and past webinars at https://epi.grants.cancer.gov/events. Many, but not all, EGRP-supported events are recorded. Please look for the video camera icon on our events page as an indication that a recording is available, or visit our video library.
Resources for Researchers
Updates to several EGRP-supported research resources are coming soon in 2020, but you don’t have to wait till then to access our resources, which cover a wide range of topics. Examples include, but are not limited to…
- Biospecimen resources for population scientists
- Cancer Epidemiology Descriptive Cohort Database
- Dietary assessment resources
- Sample cancer epidemiology grant applications
View our full list of research resources at https://epi.grants.cancer.gov/research-resources/.