Fred Hutch behavioral scientist wins funds for two cancer prevention studies

Linda Ko's NIH grant will support childhood obesity intervention in Yakima Valley; Consortium grant will support research into effects of social networks on colorectal cancer screening
Dr. Linda Ko
Dr. Linda Ko, Public Health Sciences Division Photo by Bo Jungmayer

The Public Health Sciences Division's Dr. Linda Ko is the recent recipient of grants that will move forward two proposed projects—one to combat childhood obesity and another to study the impact of social networks on colorectal cancer screening.

The first is an $853,100 grant from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. The three-year grant, which has potential for extension to five years, will fund a project entitled "Collaboration for a Healthy Community."

Co-principal investigator Ko and colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and University of Washington will use the grant to establish community infrastructure in the Yakima Valley to intervene on childhood obesity, with a focus on Latino youth.

"Obesity is associated with increased risks of several types of cancer among adults," said Ko, a behavioral scientist in the Cancer Prevention Program. "By addressing risk factors at an early age, we are preventing children from being obese and also reducing their risk for getting cancer at a later age."

Ko will work with co-principal investigator Dr. Cynthia Perry from the UW School of Nursing. Investigators from PHS are Drs. Beti Thompson, Mario Kratz and Catherine Duggan.

Can social networks impact colon cancer screening rates?

Ko also received $66,660 in Cancer Core Support Grant funds from the Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium for a pilot project to study the effects of social networks on colorectal cancer screening.

The study, "Cancer Communication within Social Networks," will investigate whether the effects of a colorectal cancer screening decision tool for patients also extends to intentions among those in their social networks to receive screening for colorectal cancer.

"Due to technological advances and social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs, we are connected to our family, friends and colleagues more than ever," Ko said. "People share information with their social networks, including health information. This study will allow us to investigate how cancer screening information is exchanged between patients and their social networks and decisions within those networks to get screened for colorectal cancer after receiving such information."

The project involves collaboration between Fred Hutch, UW, WWAMI (the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho regional medical education network of the UW School of Medicine), and Community Health of Central Washington.

Co-investigators are Thompson and, from the UW School of Public Health, Dr. Miruna Petruscu-Prahova.

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