Dr. Marvella Ford
Dr. Ford

MUSC Hollings Cancer Center received more than $800,000 from the National Cancer Institute to support three new research projects that will be implemented under the auspices of the South Carolina Cancer Disparities Research Center, also known as SC CaDRE.

This initiative, which began in 2011, reflects the combined efforts of Hollings and South Carolina State University (SCSU). Together, this partnership has made significant advances in health disparities research.

Marvella Ford, Ph.D., associate director of Population Science and Cancer Disparities at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center and the SmartState endowed chair in prostate cancer disparities at SCSU, has been leading the SC CaDRE with Judith Salley-Guydon, chair of the Department of Biological and Physical Sciences at SCSU.

“We are really seeing the strength of the partnership. It’s already leading to new grants and new collaborations that wouldn’t have existed otherwise,” says Ford.

Funding will support three new research projects over the next three years. One project will focus on health disparities as it relates to heterogeneity of neuroendocrine cells in normal prostate and neuroendocrine prostate cancer and the role of NEUROG3 in the latter.

“The investigators previously evaluated the role of the microbiome in relation to rectal cancer, but now they’re applying their microbiome findings to prostate cancer,” says Ford. “So to me, that’s brilliance.”

The second project will develop deep learning and other artificial intelligence algorithms to assess environmental factors leading to cancer disparities in Sea Island/Gullah individuals using digital imagery and geographical information. The third project will evaluate the role of lipid metabolic pathways in breast cancer progression and disparities in African American and non-Hispanic white women.

“I think these are all creative projects. There’ve been a lot of studies, and we have to think outside the box and think about relationships between different types of cancer or between the environment and cancer as well as consider how we can intervene to reduce the high rates of cancer disparities and improve cancer-related health outcomes for the entire South Carolina population.”