Population Sciences in the Pacific Program

The Population Sciences in the Pacific (PSP) Program conducts research to understand the racial/ethnic differences in cancer incidence and mortality in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. This understanding enables researchers to design and develop interventions to prevent cancer and improve the survival and life quality of cancer patients. The research areas that PSP focuses on are diet, nutrition, obesity, physical activity, infectious agents, substance use (tobacco, e-cigarette, and betel nut), genetic susceptibility, molecular features and microbiome characteristics. PSP also studies cancer risk in relation to behavioral and psychosocial factors as well as cultural influences and community's impact on cancer prevention. Cancer survivorship is a focus of PSP research in order to improve disease outcomes and prolong patient survival. Consistent with this research focus, PSP has expertise in nutritional epidemiology, molecular epidemiology, biostatistics, bioinformatics, biophysics, population genetics, clinical/health psychology, and public health. Program members are also in close interaction and collaboration with molecular biologists, geneticists, biochemists, pathologists, oncologists, clinicians, and other investigators within the UH Cancer Center, in various departments of the University of Hawaiʻi, and at other academic centers and research institutions nationally and internationally.

Over the years, PSP has established valuable resources for population research which include a state-wide tumor registry (Hawaiʻi Tumor Registry), a population-based prospective cohort (Multiethnic Cohort), and a community-based outreach network. As gene-environment interaction plays a crucial role in cancer development and progression, PSP also has laboratory facilities to collect and store biological specimens and to analyze genetic and molecular biomarkers for assessing cancer risk and developing behavioral and lifestyle interventions for cancer prevention and survivorship.

Recently, the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center and the University of Guam (UOG) were each awarded five-year grants totaling over $14 million to mitigate the impact of cancer on Pacific Islanders through cancer research, career training and community outreach.