Observed on February 4, 2018, World Cancer Day seeks to “unite the world’s population in the fight against cancer.” Here’s how six Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers are confronting cancer on diverse fronts.
Dr. Cohen’s research focuses on the factors that affect the adoption and implementation of public health policies and on evaluating the beneficial effects and the unintended consequences of such policies. Trained in epidemiology and health policy, Dr. Cohen has worked on studies of both U.S. and Canadian legislators regarding tobacco and tobacco control policy, a longitudinal cohort of smokers focusing on factors influencing quitting behavior, tobacco promotion at the point of sale, tobacco prices including taxes, tobacco packaging, options for reducing the physical availability of tobacco products, and tobacco industry interference in tobacco control.
Dr. D’Souza’s primary research interest is in infectious causes of cancer. Her current research explores the association between human papillomavirus (HPV) and oral, cervical and anal cancers; the natural history of oral and anogenital HPV infection; HPV vaccination and risk communication. Dr. D’Souza also has active research programs evaluating cancer screening methods and potential biomarkers. Additional interests include the role of behavioral factors on viral acquisition and persistence, the epidemiology of sexually transmitted infections, the effect of viral load and drug use on disease progression, the epidemiology of HIV/AIDS, and infectious causes of AIDS malignancy.
The research in Dr. Groopman’s program involves the development and application of molecular biomarkers of exposure, dose and effect from environmental carcinogens, including naturally occurring agents in the diet as well as those produced as a result of cooking practices. A major emphasis of the research has been in the elucidation of the role of aflatoxins, a common contaminant of the food supply, in the induction of liver cancer in high-risk populations living in Asia and Africa. This work has led to the identification of a strong chemical-viral interaction between aflatoxin and the human hepatitis B virus in the induction of liver cancer. These biomarkers have also been used in many collaborative molecular epidemiology studies of liver cancer risk and recently employed to assess the efficacy of a number of chemopreventive agents in trials in high-risk aflatoxin-hepatitis B virus-exposed populations. This research is now being extended to develop genetic biomarkers of p53 mutations and viral alterations in human samples as early detection of disease biomarkers using a novel mass spectroscopy–based method for genotyping developed in the laboratory. Thus, the research in Dr. Groopman’s laboratory focuses on the translation of mechanistic research to public health based prevention strategies.
Dr. Kirk’s research focuses on understanding the natural history of viral infections, particularly HIV and the hepatitis viruses, in both domestic and international settings. The ALIVE (AIDS Linked to the Intravenous Experience) study is a long-standing and productive cohort that characterizes the natural history of HIV infection among intravenous drug users in Baltimore, MD. His research in ALIVE ranges from pathogenesis to clinical to behavioral. In particular, Dr. Kirk focuses on the non-AIDS outcomes of HIV including cancer, liver and lung diseases. He also works on related topics with international collaborators, primarily in Africa. His research employs clinical, imaging and “omic” (genetic, epigenetic, proteomic) methods to help understand and identify individuals at greatest risk for clinically relevant outcomes from HIV, HBV and HCV infections. The long-term goal of this research is to translate this information into targeted interventions to help reduce the burden from these infections.
GENETIC AND EPIGENETIC FACTORS
Dr. Platz is a cancer epidemiologist whose research on prostate and colon cancers sits at the interface of epidemiology and basic science. Within prospective cohorts, she studies the association of genetic and epigenetic factors as well as circulating markers of androgenicity, inflammation and oxidation with prostate cancer incidence and recurrence. For colorectal neoplasia, her work focuses on metabolic syndrome, growth factors and inflammation as sequelae of adiposity. She also studies the role of modifiable factors that influence these pathways, such as diet and lifestyle, in relation to the incidence of these diseases and other men’s health concerns. In addition, she studies these factors in association with benign conditions of the prostate and colon, including benign prostatic hyperplasia and adenomatous polyps. She has a long-standing interest in uncovering explanations for the notably higher rate of prostate cancer in African-American compared to white men, including racial variation in sex steroid hormones in the in utero milieu and throughout life.
GLOBAL CANCER DISPARITIES
Epidemiology, Center for Global Health
Dr. Anne F. Rositch is an applied epidemiologist, concentrating on cancer in women and global cancer disparities, with a background in basic science and experience conducting international field-based research. For over 10 years, her research has focused on cervical cancer in HIV-positive individuals and aging women and in low-resource settings. It has spanned the translational spectrum from epidemiological studies to understand the natural history of the disease, to studying the effectiveness and implementation of cervical cancer prevention in low-resource settings. Dr. Rositch has ongoing research in Baltimore and South America and across sub-Saharan Africa. Her recent work is focused on leveraging her training in implementation science and experience in cervical cancer prevention to identify novel multidisciplinary and multilevel approaches for breast cancer control in low-resource settings. Dr. Rositch’s current research program has three main areas: epidemiology and prevention of HPV and invasive cervical cancer in aging and older women; effectiveness and implementation of novel cervical and breast cancer prevention and control programs in high-risk populations and in low-resource settings including Peru, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa; and cancer and HIV, with a focus on treatment and survival disparities and on defining features of non-AIDS defining cancers in people with HIV/AIDS.
Bridging Cancer’s Great Divide: Six epidemiologists seek to eliminate disparities in cancer incidence and outcomes. (Coming soon in: Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health Magazine, Spring 2018)