PHS' Rolland wins NCI grant to study coordinating centers

Betsy Rolland will lead investigation of how different types of coordinating centers build and support multi-institutional cancer-epidemiology research projects

Betsy Rolland
Betsy Rolland's project will investigate how different types of coordinating centers support multi-institutional cancer-epidemiology research projects. Photo by Linsey Battan

Betsy Rolland, project manager for the Asia Cohort Consortium’s Coordinating Center in the Public Health Sciences Division, has won $185,866 from the National Cancer Institute to lead an investigation entitled "The Role of Coordinating Centers in Collaborative Cancer-Epidemiology Studies." Co-principal investigator for the study will be Dr. Charlotte Lee, a professor at the University of Washington and Rolland’s doctorate adviser in the UW’s Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering. Dr. John Potter, the head of the coordinating center, will also serve as an adviser for the pilot project.

Granted through the Epidemiology and Genetics Research Program of the NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, Rolland’s project will investigate how different types of coordinating centers support multi-institutional cancer-epidemiology research projects.

Lessons from running a coordinating center

Rolland, Potter and Briana Smith, former coordinating center project coordinator, also have a paper appearing in an upcoming issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, detailing their experience running the coordinating center. The paper is online now in advance of the print publication. While PHS has significant expertise in building and managing coordinating centers, that expertise has not been captured in one place. Rolland and Lee will focus their investigation on coordinating centers at the Hutchinson Center, studying in detail six to 10, including:

  • The Women's Health Initiative
  • Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer Centers
  • Genetics and Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer Consortium
  • Early Detection Research Network
  • Asia Cohort Consortium’s Coordinating Center

"When I first began building the Asia Cohort Consortium’s Coordinating Center in 2008, I found few resources available in the form of descriptions of what a coordinating center does or how to run one effectively," said Rolland, who holds a master’s degree in library and information science from the UW. "Luckily, I was able to draw upon the experiences of the many coordinating centers here at the Hutchinson Center, but not every project manager is so fortunate. We need better resources, backed by empirical evidence, so that every project can run as efficiently and effectively as possible, especially in these times of reduced funding for research."

Building a coordinating center toolkit

Rolland and Lee will also survey and interview project staff at coordinating centers running cancer-epidemiology studies at other research facilities, especially comprehensive cancer care centers around the U.S.

Using these data, Rolland and Lee will craft models of the research projects themselves and models of the coordinating centers that have evolved to meet a specific project’s needs. They will compare how different coordinating centers are run and develop metrics that can be used both to evaluate performance and predict chances of success. From these models and metrics, they will develop a toolkit that a new collaborative project can use to build an effective coordinating center.

Finally, Rolland and Lee will develop a modular course to give project management teams the information necessary to build successful coordinating centers. This course will become the focus of an application for an NCI R13 workshop grant.

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