Newswise — SALT LAKE CITY – Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah (U of U) today announced the opening of the Cancer Population Sciences and Huntsman Center for Health Outcomes and Population Equity (HOPE), a new research and clinical space dedicated to preventing cancer and improving health among underserved populations and improving outcomes in cancer patients. The center recently received $9.7 million from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to fund a clinical trial researching new and effective approaches to reduce tobacco use.

The state-of-the-art space features 11 patient exam and consultation rooms, faculty offices, capabilities for collection and storage of biological samples from patients, such as blood and saliva, and equipment.

Cancer health disparities are differences in cancer incidence, prevalence, mortality, survivorship, and related health conditions that exist among different groups of people. Throughout Utah and the Mountain West, groups such as rural and frontier residents, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Hispanics/Latinos, and individuals with low-socioeconomic status often suffer disproportionately from cancer and its side effects.

“Our vision is to serve as a bridge between scientists and the community as we strive to achieve equity in health across Utah and the Mountain West,” said David Wetter, PhD, director of the HCI Center for HOPE and professor of population health sciences at the U of U.

The center will study ways to reduce cancer risk among underserved individuals who have not been diagnosed with cancer and ways to improve outcomes among underserved populations who have received a cancer diagnosis. This center will utilize tools like mobile health technology to examine social, environmental, and psychosocial factors among different groups to help promote cancer prevention.

For example, one study the center is leading focuses on gaining a better understanding of the factors that underlie smoking cessation among LGBTQ individuals who would like to quit smoking. Another, the PCORI-funded study, focuses on increasing the number of low-income smokers at 30 Federally Qualified Health Centers across Utah who receive evidence-based tobacco cessation interventions. The clinic- and patient-level strategies will focus on enhanced support at the point of care and increasing opportunities for smokers to engage in tobacco cessation treatment. Current Utah smoking rates among low income, American Indian/Alaska Native, African American, and LGBTQ communities are significantly higher than the state average.

Along with researching health disparities, the center also received funding from the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Center Cessation Initiative to provide tobacco cessation clinical services for cancer patients using the Ask-Advice-Connect intervention. This initiative, pioneered by HCI researchers, is now being adopted in health care systems across the United States.

“Tobacco use remains a leading cause of cancer and of death from cancer, but many patients continue to use tobacco after learning of their diagnosis,” said Cho Lam, PhD, HCI investigator and associate professor of population health sciences at the U of U. “Screening every HCI patient for tobacco use, and providing those who are addicted with appropriate tobacco cessation interventions, both during cancer treatment and after, will help improve treatment outcomes, increase patient survival rates, and contribute to a better quality of life.”

The center will collaborate with several government and community groups, including the Utah Department of Health and the Association for Utah Community Health.

Faculty in the center will also focus on mentorship of scientists from underrepresented groups who are training to become population health scientists. The center has one current postdoctoral scholar, with three additional scholars joining in September 2018. 


About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah is the official cancer center of Utah. The cancer campus includes a state-of-the-art cancer specialty hospital as well as two buildings dedicated to cancer research. HCI treats patients with all forms of cancer and operates several clinics that focus on patients with a family history of cancer. As the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West, HCI serves the largest geographic region in the country, drawing patients from Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. HCI scientists have identified more genes for inherited cancers than any other cancer center in the world, including genes responsible for hereditary breast, ovarian, colon, head, and neck cancers, along with melanoma. HCI manages the Utah Population Databasethe largest genetic database in the world, with information on more than 9 million people linked to genealogies, health records, and vital statistics. The institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman