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Training and Research in Colon Cancer Survival

Polly A. Newcomb

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National Institutes of Health (NIH)
This is a renewal of an Established Investigator award for Dr. Polly Newcomb to dedicate 30% effort to training and research in colorectal cancer survivorship. She is an experienced cancer prevention and control investigator with a long and successful record of continuous NIH-funding, with nearly $40 M in direct awards to her as Principal Investigator. An effective mentor, she has worked with over 40 young scientists on their way to independent careers in cancer prevention and control. This K05 has allowed her to focus her career on the epidemiology and genetics of colon cancer survival. With support of the K05 she has obtained additional skills, had 4 R01 proposals funded as PI, and worked with 24 outstanding junior investigators to author ~70 study reports focused on cancer survivorship. The epidemiology of cancer survival continues to be an essential area, as the population of cancer survivors is rapidly growing because of screening and treatment successes; today more than 14 million U.S. individuals have a history of cancer. Therefore, identifying approaches to improve survival in colorectal cancer patients is a high priority for patients, clinicians, and caregivers.Colorectal cancer is a complex disease caused by the joint action of environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors; longevity after diagnosis too must reflect these joint effects. The research goals of this K05 awards are to: 1) Further develop and actively participate in the newly emerging International Survival Analysis of Colorectal Cancer Consortium (ISACC) that currently includes 23 studies and nearly 27,000 colorectal cancers, in order to initiate research projects with Consortium investigators and mentees to leverage the diverse and well-annotated populations and biospecimens collected by the participating studies; 2) Test whether the colon tumor genome, as defined by BRAF mutation, KRAS mutation, CpG Island Methylator Phenotype (CIMP), and microsatellite instability (MSI) status, is associated with colorectal cancer survival, and assess whether this association is modified by epidemiologic factors or common germline genetic variants; and 3) Develop and validate a prognostic model for survival utilizing the tumor genome, epidemiologic factors, and germline genetic variants. Cancer survivorship is a challenging area of prevention research with unique methods for analyses and controlling bias, making mentorship of junior investigators key to the successful production of significant and impactful research results. There is an outstanding pool of pre- and post-doctoral trainees from the University of Washington, with mentee funding available from 4 training grants with which Dr. Newcomb serves as a mentor and/or on the Executive Committee. Dr. Newcomb regularly meets with trainees individually, and weekly as a group, to develop expertise in study conduct, analyses, manuscript preparation, grant writing, and the responsible conduct of research. The renewal of the K05 award will be an invaluable mechanism to better understand the factors that can enhance cancer survival, and in doing so, develop junior researchers highly skilled in cancer control.

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