CHAPEL HILL — The largest sponsored research grant in N.C. Central University history will bring more than $7 million over five years to the university’s Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute (BBRI). UNC Lineberger will receive almost $4.9 million. Both grants fund faculty partnerships between these two institutions to jointly develop programs, enhance training and support five research projects in prevention, screening, epidemiology and the causation of cancer.
The NCI program is designed to foster intensive collaborations between minority-serving institutions and NCI-designated Cancer Centers to further develop approaches to understand and change the significant disparities in cancer outcomes observed in minority and socio-economically disadvantaged populations.
Led by Ricardo Richardson, Ph.D., director of the Cancer Program at the Julius L. Chambers BBRI at N.C. Central University, and Shelton Earp, M.D., UNC Lineberger’s director, the grant will initiate a joint program to increase the number of undergraduate students from both universities pursuing careers devoted to causes and prevention of minority disparities. The grant will also help fund new junior faculty hires at NCCU to build cancer research capacity.
"This award is a monumental achievement for NCCU because it acknowledges our commitment to address cancer health disparities," Richardson said. "The level of support that we have received from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center through this partnership over the past six years has been extraordinary. The funding will allow us to expand research collaborations among the two institutions, train students and junior faculty in multidisciplinary research aimed at reducing cancer disparities, and consolidates programs of community outreach and education."
"Our Partnership has grown over the past six years to encompass investigators across the cancer research spectrum from cancer prevention in the community to molecularly-targeted drug discovery," Earp said. "The faculty, departments, BRITE and BBRI at NCCU are terrific, and the enlargement of our partnership will provide additional opportunities for NCCU to become the nation's best-funded, most research-effective historically black university in the United States."
"We look forward to further integrating NCCU faculty into UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center programs and learning from them as to how we can improve our effort to understand and reduce the burden of cancer in minority populations," he added.
Key projects funded by the partnership grant include:
- An evaluation of a self-screening cervical cancer test by mail among rural women in North Carolina, led by Walter Charles, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at NCCU, and Jennifer Smith, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor of Epidemiology in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and UNC Lineberger member.
- A comparative study of a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus to pinpoint differences in genetic and environmental factors that may contribute to the predominance of this disease in Caucasian Americans and may be protective in African-American patients, led by Xiaoxen Chen, Ph.D., associate professor in the Cancer Research Program at NCCU, and Nicholas Shaheen, M.D., M.P.H., professor of medicine and epidemiology at UNC-CH and UNC Lineberger member.
- A study of receptors for key agents that could be administered without undesirable side effects and inhibit the growth of prostate cancer, a disease that disproportionally affects African-American men, led by Somnath Mukhopadhyay, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry at NCCU, and Keith Burridge, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at UNC-CH and UNC Lineberger member.
- A project to identify potential drugs that target a key biomolecular signal involved in triple negative breast cancer, a type of cancer that affects young African-American women disproportionately, led by John Scott, Ph.D., associate professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at NCCU, and Gary Johnson, Ph.D., professor and chair of Pharmacology at UNC-CH and UNC Lineberger member.
- An intervention, centered at barbershops, aimed at promoting physical activity in African-American men, led by David Jolly, Dr.PH., M.P.H., Med, associate professor and chair of the Department of Health Education at NCCU, and Laura Linnan, Sc.D., CHES, associate professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and UNC Lineberger member.