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Faculty & Staff Honors

Arizona Receives $1.25M Grant to Train Next Generation of Cancer Prevention Researchers

The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health has received a $1.25 million, five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute to train students from diverse backgrounds in cancer prevention and control research.

Attracting and training a diverse student body in cancer prevention and control research is an area of critical need to help close the gap on cancer health disparities.

The Student Transformative Experiences to Progress Under-represented Professionals (STEP-UP) in Cancer Prevention Program is a 12-week, paid research program that involves direct community engaged research and experiential clinical trial opportunities designed for undergraduate and master’s level students.

“STEP-UP is unique in its focus on cancer prevention science at the clinical trial to community-based end of the cancer research continuum,” said Dr. Cynthia Thomson, professor of public health at the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health and co-lead of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at the UA Cancer Center.

The program is a collaboration led by researchers from the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health and the UA Cancer Center. A group of 17 students completed the first STEP-UP program this month.

“We are training the next generation of cancer prevention clinicians and researchers through the STEP-UP academic program, which builds on a substantial foundation of efforts to attract and retain a diverse student body in cancer prevention and control research, an area of critical need,” Dr. Thomson added.

[Photo: STEP-UP students – Summer of 2018]

The University of Arizona is committed to attracting students from the populations that carry a disproportionate cancer burden — the same ones that traditionally are under-represented in science careers. The students come from diverse backgrounds, including underrepresented, disadvantaged, non-traditional or first-generation college students and students that attend schools with limited research opportunities.

STEP-UP uses resources across the University of Arizona Health Sciences campus, including the UA Collaboratory for Metabolic Disease Prevention and Treatment. During the program, students acquire a broad range of research skills, including body composition assessment, biomarker evaluation, health assessment, qualitative and quantitative research methods and training in behavior theory and intervention methodology.

The students are matched with faculty mentors from the UA Colleges of Medicine-Tucson, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, who are currently working on cancer prevention and control research.

This summer, the students participated in community-engaged research under the mentorship of public health faculty members Dr. Robin Harris, professor of epidemiology, and Dr. David Garcia, assistant professor of health promotion sciences. In addition, the students participated in systematic reviews, a research study that collects and looks at multiple studies to answer one or more cancer prevention questions, under the mentorship of Dr. John Ehiri, professor and chair of the UA department of health promotion sciences,

The application process for the summer 2019 program will begin in January. For questions and information about the STEP-UP training program, please contact Ms. Karen Dickeson at or (520) 626-2639.

Funding for the program comes from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under grant No.: 1R25CA217725-01