PACR Projects

Since 2007, the PACR has fostered and supported 33 collaborative projects focused on cancer research, training, or outreach. Our diverse portfolio of cancer research and cancer outreach projects seeks to reduce health disparities for underserved populations in New Mexico and Washington. From nutrition to disease characteristics, human biology to environmental impact, scientists are approaching health disparities in a multitude of ways.

Current Projects

Risk of Cancer Versus Risk of Cancer Diagnosis: Accounting for diagnostic bias in predictions of breast cancer risk by race/ethnicity and breast density

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Charlotte Gard, NMSU
Ruth Etzioni, Fred Hutch

NMSU investigators with expertise in risk prediction partnered with Fred Hutch leaders in cancer modeling to develop an analytic approach to de-bias risk prediction models using data from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC). Researchers plan to decouple the patterns of screening/biopsy from the underlying disease process via a combination of statistical and simulation modeling using data from the BCSC.

Addressing Social Determinants of Health in Primary Care

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Mary Alice Scott, NMSU
Ivan de la Rosa, NMSU
Rachel Ceballos, Fred Hutch

A major gap exists between recommendations for social determinants of health (SDH) screening tools and knowledge about how to implement these tools in a clinical setting. Researchers are gathering the formative data needed to develop an educational intervention for medical providers, using multiple methods to ensure high scientific rigor.

Engaging Navajo elementary schools in a randomized controlled trial: Yéego! Healthy Eating & Gardening

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Kevin Lombard, NMSU
Shirley Beresford, Fred Hutch
India Ornelas, Fred Hutch

We have a long standing collaboration with the Navajo Nation developing and evaluating interventions focused on gardening and healthy eating. Previous projects highlighted the importance of encouraging healthy eating habits early in life. Our gardening and healthy eating elementary school curriculum, a culturally appropriate strategy for improving healthy eating in this population, was well received in our pilot project. In our group randomized controlled trial, we are evaluating the success in increasing healthy eating choices of our integrated curriculum and school-based garden intervention, among Navajo 3rd and 4th grade students attending elementary schools in two areas on the Navajo Nation.

Testing the Efficacy of the Culturally-Adapted Conexiones Program for Hispanic Mothers Diagnosed with Cancer

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Rebecca Palacios, NMSU
Frances Lewis, UW/Fred Hutch

This study tests the short-term efficacy of Conexiones, a culturally-adapted intervention designed to help recently diagnosed mothers gain the tools they need to help their children and family adjust to their mother’s cancer diagnosis. Study results will be essential as a next step in testing the Conexiones program with other Hispanic subgroups in a larger trial, and in readying the program for wider dissemination to provider and non-profit organizations serving Hispanic parents with cancer.

Former projects

Yéego Gardening! Where Health and Horticulture Intersect: A Navajo wellness collaboration

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Shirley Beresford, Fred Hutch
India Ornelas, UW/Fred Hutch
Kevin Lombard, NMSU

We developed community gardens and provided culturally-appropriate workshops for Navajo adults with technical horticultural support, integrating Navajo culture and traditional practices. The gardens were attached to an elementary school, a chapter house and a boys and girls club on the Navajo Nation. The adults associated with those places completed surveys to allow assessments pre- and post-intervention. The work improved the capacity of NMSU to conduct cancer prevention research and increased the attention at Fred Hutch to cancer-related health disparities research.

Therapeutic Target for Doxorubicin-Resistant Breast Cancer

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Chris Kemp, Fred Hutch
Amanda Ashley, NMSU

Triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), a clinical subtype seen disproportionately in African American and Latina women, is characterized by higher recurrence and lower overall survival following doxorubicin treatment. Researchers identified the specific cancer genes to target to sensitize breast tumors to doxorubicin.

Advanced Understanding of Hormonal Contributors to Breast Cancer Etiology and Progression

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Chris Li, Fred Hutch
Peggy Porter, Fred Hutch
Ryan Ashley, NMSU

The biological mechanisms underlying the relationship between progestin use and lobular breast cancer risk are largely unknown. In this study we evaluated the influence of novel membrane-associated steroid receptors on breast cancer progression to identify new prevention strategies and potential therapeutic targets.

Time-Resolved Flow Cytometric Study of Cell Signaling

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Roger Brent, Fred Hutch
Jessica Houston, NMSU

Drs. Houston and Brent extended work using fluorescent lifetime methods to quantify normal and aberrant cell signaling. Combination of hardware developed at NMSU and fluorescent proteins developed at Fred Hutch demonstrated an ability to isolate cell subpopulations.

A New Paradigm to Identify Targeted Therapies for Triple Negative Breast Cancer

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Chris Kemp, Fred Hutch
Amanda Ashley, NMSU

There is a lack of targeted therapies for drug resistant, triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), a particularly lethal form of cancer. Using tumor cells derived directly from metastatic cancers, researchers identified novel gene targets which could be inhibited by drugs for therapeutic benefit. 

Engaging School and Family in Navajo Gardening for Health

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Shirley Beresford, Fred Hutch
India Ornelas, UW
Kevin Lombard, NMSU

Building on our previous work, we expanded our collaboration to include faculty and students in an elementary school in an effort to reach Navajo children. During the first year, researchers helped plant and maintain a school garden and developed a school garden and healthy eating curriculum with dietary assessment protocols. In the second year of the program, the full intervention was implemented, including a year-long curriculum and quarterly community gardening activities at the school. Changes in gardening behaviors and healthy eating choices in both parents and children were estimated. The school garden provided a highly visible demonstration plot for the general community.

A Culturally-Adapted Enhancing Connections Program for Hispanic Mothers Diagnosed with Cancer: A partnership feasibility study

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Frances Lewis, UW/Fred Hutch
Elizabeth Trice Loggers, SCCA/Fred Hutch
Rebecca Palacios, NMSU

Researchers conducted the first phase of a program designed to test the short-term efficacy of a parenting education program for Hispanic women diagnosed with breast cancer while raising children. This intervention is a culturally-adapted version of the Enhancing Connections program, a randomized clinical trial originally performed with primarily non-Hispanic white mothers.

Toward Collective Dynamics of Solid Tumor with its Microenvironment

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Eric Holland, Fred Hutch
Jianjun Paul Tian, NMSU

This project combined mathematical modeling and biological experiments to study the collective dynamics of glioma growth. Researchers developed and tested mathematical models for interaction dynamics of neural precursors and glioma cells, and for interaction dynamics of immune cells and glioma cells.