University of Southern California
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

Cancer Epidemiology Program

The overarching goal of the Cancer Epidemiology Program is to investigate the causes of cancer through epidemiological studies incorporating genetic and molecular epidemiology approaches as well as risk factors/environmental and biomarker research that are strongly grounded in the relevant biology. A hallmark of this Program has been the integration of epidemiology and biology, along with the development and application of state-of-the-art biostatistical approaches and a defined focus on ethnic diversity that is consistent with the populations within the USC Norris catchment area. The Program is led by Graham Casey, PhD, a molecular geneticist who is interested in the integration of cancer epidemiology and molecular biology to develop novel insight into the complex etiology of cancers, and Duncan Thomas, PhD, a biostatistician with extensive contributions to design and analysis methods for genetic and environmental epidemiology studies and has had numerous cancer epidemiology collaborations. Drs. Casey (cancer genetics), Thomas (biostatistics), and Haiman (cancer epidemiology) comprise the Program’s Executive Committee. The scientific aims of the Program are to: 1) elucidate the role of environmental and lifestyle factors (e.g., obesity, diabetes, radiation) in the etiology of cancer and study population cancer trends; 2) elucidate the role of genetic factors in the etiology of cancer with an emphasis on different racial/ethnic populations using existing and new cohorts; 3) determine the mechanistic and biological basis for genetic risk variants using large-scale fine-mapping and comprehensive cellular and biochemical approaches, and integrate biomarker and tumor biology studies into epidemiologic research; and 4) develop and apply novel study design and statistical analysis methodologies for environmental and genetic epidemiology research in cancer. Accomplishments during the project period include seminal contributions to the genetic etiology of the cancer field with over 40 GWAS-related manuscripts since 2010, leadership roles in several international genetics consortia, expansion of the genetics emphasis to study the biological implications of genetic inheritance through strategic recruitment, development of an integrative genomics theme to study the relationship between inherited and somatically acquired mutations in tumors, submission of several P01s, and increased collaboration with Cancer Control Research and other programs, that includes collaborative grant submissions. The Program is composed of 27 members from four departments within the Keck School of Medicine. Current grant funding totals are $11.0M in total funding (direct costs), of which 59% is from NCI, 23% from other NIH sources, and 10% in other peer-review funding sources. The Program is highly productive with 730 publications of which 26% are inter-programmatic, 47% intra-programmatic and 62% inter-institutional.