University of Southern California
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

Cancer Epidemiology Program

The Cancer Epidemiology Program is comprised of 23 investigators, each of whom has successfully competed for peer-reviewed support to conduct epidemiological research related to the etiology and/or progression of cancer and statistical design issues. The Program is supported by peer-reviewed grants totaling $12.6 million of annual direct costs, of which $6.8 million is from the NCI. Program members have published 620 peer-reviewed manuscripts since 2005. These papers have focused on all major malignancies and a wide variety of different exposures, genetic loci, and gene-environment interactions. Forty-three % of these papers represented intra-programmatic and 24% represented inter-programmatic collaborations.

The central theme of our Program is to better understand the causes and prevention of cancer by conducting epidemiological studies (now incorporating genetic and molecular epidemiology approaches) of cancer that are strongly grounded in the relevant biology. This strong link between epidemiology and biology combined with the development and application of state-of-the-art biostatistical approaches has been the hallmark of our Program. Historically, we have focused on understanding the role of hormones and other environmental and lifestyle factors in the etiology of cancer and we have continued this strong tradition during the past five years by including environmental/lifestyle factors in candidate gene pathway studies and by developing biostatistical techniques to analyze these complex pathways. To complement our research on candidate gene pathways, we have also substantially enhanced our genomics-based research, helping to lead several international genome-wide association study (GWAS) collaborations along with the development of analytical techniques to better mine the richness of GWAS data, including methods to integrate GWAS and candidate gene pathway data. Finally, in order to more fully realize the translational potential of GWAS, we have developed a strong Program aimed at post-GWAS fine-mapping and functional studies that are integrated with our ongoing epidemiological studies. Our general aim is to develop comprehensive, well-integrated approaches to cancer etiology that reflect current understanding of cancer biology, leverage the outstanding population resources we have developed, and take advantage of current genomics-based technologies.