University of Southern California
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

Cancer Epidemiology Program

Cancer Epidemiology (CE) Program at USC Norris overarching goal is to elucidate risk factors for cancer risk and progression, with an emphasis on cancer health disparities in the NCCC catchment area. The program has three specific aims: 1) to elucidate the role of environmental and lifestyle factors (e.g., obesity, diabetes, tobacco use) in the etiology of cancer and study population cancer trends; 2 ) To elucidate the role of genetic factors in the etiology of cancer with an emphasis on different racial/ethnic populations using existing and new cohorts; and 3) To develop methods for integrative statistical analysis of 'omics' data in environmental and genetic epidemiology research in cancer.

The program co-leaders, Christopher Haiman, Sc.D., and Wendy Cozen, D.O., have complementary recognized expertise in cancer epidemiology and genetics, and immunology, biomarkers and biobanking, respectively. The 23 members are faculty in the Keck School of Medicine of USC and represent two departments at USC. These members are international leaders in identifying the etiology of prostate, breast, pancreatic, liver, colorectal, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and lymphoma/myeloma, with a focus on elucidating the underlying causes of disparities in risk. The program members direct important population-based resources that provide cases and samples for the NCI funded grants including the Multiethnic Cohort, the California Birth Cohort and the USC Residual Tissue Repository, as well as only one of two biostatistical methodology P01s awarded by NCI. Recent achievements include identification of pan-ethnic genetic risk variants for prostate cancer and multiple myeloma, identification of ethnic-specific causes for hepatocellular cancer, demonstration that long-standing diabetes mellitus causes pancreatic cancer in Latinos, and demonstration of an association between congenital cytomegalovirus and risk of pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In addition, new integrative biostatistical methods have been developed to generate polygenic risk scores across populations (JAM) and to conduct integrative omics analysis using multiple biological measurements (LUCID). Program members also lead the RESPOND U19 effort, which is a national multidisciplinary study to identify determinants of aggressive prostate cancer in African American men. A T32 in the Program also provides postdoctoral fellowship training in cancer health disparities research.