Orange County partnership to target cancer health disparities

UC Irvine, Cal State Fullerton researchers join forces to conduct novel pilot studies

November 01, 2012
Dr. F. Allan Hubbell

Researchers from UC Irvine’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center and California State University, Fullerton’s Health Promotion Research Institute have formed a partnership to help reduce cancer disparities in Orange County.

The collaboration, the first of its kind between the two institutions, is led by Dr. F. Allan Hubbell, professor emeritus of medicine, public health and nursing science at UC Irvine; and Sora Park Tanjasiri, professor of health science and director of the Health Promotion Research Institute at Cal State Fullerton.

The two will receive $1.3 million in funding from the National Cancer Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“The overall goal is to establish a collaborative partnership that will increase research at both institutions on cancer health disparities,” Hubbell said. “By doing so, the partnership will contribute to reducing and eventually eliminating disparities in Orange County, leading to cancer health equity.”

“Cancer is the second-leading cause of death among all major ethnic groups,” Tanjasiri added. “However, the risk of developing cancer varies considerably by ethnicity.”

Hispanics, for example, have higher rates of cervical cancer, stomach cancer and liver cancer than non-Hispanic whites. And non-Hispanic black males have the highest overall cancer incidence and mortality rates of any ethnic group.

The alliance has two objectives:

  • One is to conduct pilot research projects — involving at least one investigator at each institution — on cancer health disparities that will lead to submission of research proposals to the NCI and other funding agencies. These projects will advance knowledge about cancer health disparities and, over the long term, help erase them. Funding will support four pilot research projects.
  • The second is to provide mentorship and training in cancer health disparities research to junior investigators in the pilot research projects — thereby increasing the number of researchers in the field.

The first pilot research project will explore disparities in social support, isolation and coping among cervical cancer survivors in Orange County. The study will combine the complementary expertise of co-leaders Mindy Mechanic of Cal State Fullerton, who specializes in social support and coping, and Lari Wenzel of UC Irvine, who specializes in cancer survivorship and quality of life. Three additional projects will be selected for funding through a competitive process during the course of the partnership.

About the partners

The Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UC Irvine Medical Center provides fully integrated research, prevention, diagnostics, treatment and rehabilitation programs for patients and families coping with cancer. Ranked among the nation’s best hospitals for oncology treatment by U.S. News & World Report, it is Orange County’s only Comprehensive Cancer Center — the highest honor bestowed by the National Cancer Institute.

Cal State Fullerton’s Health Promotion Research Institute serves as a catalyst and focal point for research, training and community interchange to develop and disseminate evidence-based information and health promotion programs. The institute has more than 50 faculty members from 18 departments. It consists of five affiliated centers, including the Center for Cancer Disparities Research, which was established to address the increasing burden of cancer-related health disparities.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UC Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UC Irvine is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with nearly 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,000 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UC Irvine contributes an annual economic impact of $4 billion. For more UC Irvine news, visit

About California State University, Fullerton: A comprehensive regional university with a global outlook, Cal State Fullerton has more than 37,000 students and is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution and an Asian American- and Pacific Islander-Serving Institution. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, CSUF is eighth in the nation for the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to minority students and first in California for the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Hispanics.

News Radio: UC Irvine maintains on campus an ISDN line for conducting interviews with its faculty and experts. Use of this line is available for a fee to radio news programs/stations that wish to interview UC Irvine faculty and experts. Use of the ISDN line is subject to availability and approval by the university.