U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command
April 10, 2001
Special Populations Program Manager: Barbara Terry-Koroma 301-619-7071
Media Point of Contact: Gail Whitehead 301-619-7071
The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, through the Office of Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP), announces recent funding activities in Special Populations. The emphasis on Special Populations expands on the successful Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP) Minority Health Initiative and plays an integral role in all CDMRP programs. Special Populations research focuses on obtaining information about the risks and treatment of cancer in minority populations and on building cancer research capabilities among minority institutions and scientists. While cancer strikes all ethnic and economic groups in the United States, its burden falls especially hard on minority and medically underserved populations, especially African Americans. The reasons for these disparities in incidence and mortality are not entirely clear, nor are the best ways to prevent or treat cancers in any U.S. minority population well understood.
To address these issues, the CDMRP's BCRP and Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP) have developed special funding mechanisms to support research by and about minority populations. Some of these research funding mechanisms are focused on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Institutions (HBCU/MI) and are designed to build collaborations among scientists within and across institutions and to increase minority research training opportunities for promising students within these institutions. Some HBCU/MI research facilitates access to minority patient populations, which is necessary for the study of many questions important to various ethnic groups. In addition, the CDMRP has other award mechanisms that fund minority-based studies such as the Minority Population Focused Collaborative Training Award.
Examples of recent studies supported by the CDMRP that are focused on minority issues or are conducted within HCBU/MI include:
- $423,760 awarded to Dr. Loic le Marchand of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Researchers at this minority institution are studying the interaction of genetic mutations and exposure to endogenous estrogens in breast cancer patients of various ethnic backgrounds. Increased exposure to estrogens within the body, resulting either from a longer duration of ovulatory years or obesity, is known to increase the risk of breast cancer. Mutations in certain estrogen-metabolizing enzymes have also been implicated in the development of breast cancer. However, the joint effects of estrogen exposure and genetic mutations are not clear. Ethnic differences may exist for both of these risk factors. Dr. le Marchand is comparing levels of estrogen exposure and genetic mutations in breast cancer patients of Caucasian, Japanese, Hispanic, African American, and native Hawaiian descent. By evaluating the differences in and the relative contribution of these risk factors in different populations, the investigators hope to develop better ways of identifying women that are most in need of intense preventive interventions.
- $339,750 awarded to Dr. Olufunmilayo Olopade of the University of Chicago.
Research is being conducted on the genetic factors related to breast cancer in African American women. African American women tend to develop breast cancer at a younger age than Caucasian women, and their cancer is frequently more virulent and harder to treat. While the genetic mutations of two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, have been found to be related to breast cancer in Caucasian women of European descent, little data exists on the biology of breast cancer in African American women. Dr. Olopade is investigating BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations in a group of young (under age 40) African American breast cancer patients and in a similar group of Nigerian women with breast cancer. Most African Americans are descended from West Africans, and the form of this disease is very similar in these populations, suggesting a genetic predisposition.
- $148,224 awarded to Dr. Mandip Sachdeva of Florida A&M University.
Dr. Sachdeva is exploring a new method of preventing drug resistance in the treatment of breast cancer at this HBCU. Drug resistance is a common problem in cancer chemotherapy, where prolonged use of anticancer drugs renders tumor cells insensitive to their effects.
- $74,988 awarded to Dr. Gilbert C. Kombe of George Washington University.
Supported by a PCRP Minority Population Focused Collaborative Training Award, Dr. Kombe will investigate social, cultural, and economic factors that may contribute to barriers to care in the Hispanic community. In-depth interviews will be conducted in groups of Hispanic men with and without diagnosed prostate cancer, Hispanic community leaders, and medical care providers that are knowledgeable about the Hispanic community. This information will clarify problems encountered by Hispanic patients when seeking prostate cancer screening, diagnostic, or treatment services.