Program Leaders



Education and Training Liaison: Gideon St. Helen, PhD

Community Engagement Liaison: Nynikka Palmer, DrPH, MPH

The overarching vision of the Cancer Control Program is focus on the multilevel causes of cancer from genes to society, including social determinants of cancer and exposures influenced by industry, in order to develop and implement effective behavioral, clinical and policy interventions that will reduce the burden of cancer in our UCSF catchment area and beyond and achieve health equity in cancer outcomes. 

> FAQ: Cancer and Tobacco Control Site Committee to support Interventional Clinical Trials

The Program aims to develop, implement, and disseminate research that will reduce cancer risk, incidence, morbidity, and mortality, and improve the quality of care and life for all people with cancer. Building on the foundation of the diverse population and innovative spirit of the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California, the Program conducts cancer control research with broad impact in Northern California and beyond. The Program's transdisciplinary approach enables members to collaborate with one another, other HDFCCC Programs and Shared Resources, community partners, healthcare systems, and policy makers. The Program has a specific focus to address cancer disparities.

  • Theme 1: To elucidate the causes of cancer in diverse populations including social, policy, industrial and environmental influences on tobacco use, diet, physical activity, cancer screening and other risk factors.
  • Theme 2: develop, implement and evaluate evidence-based interventions to reduce the cancer burden in the diverse populations of Northern California and beyond.
  • Theme 3: Translate knowledge into effective policies and programs to achieve equity in cancer outcomes across the cancer continuum.

Scientific Accomplishments by Theme

Theme 1: To elucidate the causes of cancer in diverse populations including social, policy, industrial and environmental influences on tobacco use, diet, physical activity, cancer screening and other risk factors.

Theme 1 is focused on discovery. Cheng, Gomez, and Shariff-Marco found that women who live near major roads had increased breast cancer risk if they had higher exposure to air pollutants. Wang and Reynolds reported that sleep deficiency was associated with increased risk for breast cancer. DeRouen, Cheng, Gomez, and Borno (PR Program) showed that living in high socioeconomic status or a low ethnic enclave neighborhood was associated with greater incidence testicular cancer among Hispanic men. Wencke and Wrensch identified an association between glioma and two regions previously identified in European ancestry populations and four novel regions. Benowitz and Jacob contributed to national guidance from the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco on use of biomarkers of tobacco use in tobacco research, and along with St. Helen published a study reporting biomarker of exposure to carcinogenic volatile organic compounds in electronic cigarette users. Bialous published the first paper documenting the environmental impact, including pollution and hazardous waste production, of tobacco manufacturing based on the industry’s own published data, highlighting the potential impact of tobacco production on cancer. Martin received a U54 for a US-East Africa HIV-Associated Malignancy Research Center (U54CA254571). Shariff-Marco obtained an R01 to study ethnicity and nativity in cancer among Latino and Asian Americans (R01CA237540). 

Theme 2: develop, implement and evaluate evidence-based interventions to reduce the cancer burden in the diverse populations of Northern California and beyond.

The focus of Theme 2 is on intervention. Van Blarigan collaborated with PR Program members to conduct a RCT of four web-based interventions for men with prostate cancer and found that they were feasible, acceptable, and led to improvements in diet and physical activity. Dhruva, Miaskowski, and Rugo (BR Program) tested a Ayurvedic nutrition and lifestyle intervention for breast cancer survivors and showed that it was feasible, acceptable, and led to improvements in functioning and global health. Wang and Wong collaborated with MO and PR Program members to study an online tool providing patient-tailored National Comprehensive Cancer Center guidelines for non-small cell lung cancer and found that it led to more smoking cessation counseling, less adjuvant chemotherapy, and less decisional conflict. Ramo, Delucchi, and Humfleet found significantly greater self-reported smoking abstinence and reduction in their pilot RCT of a tailored social media intervention for sexual and gender minority young adult smokers. White published a pilot RCT that found peer mentoring and automated texting support improved smoking cessation rates. Vijayaraghavan and Apollonio published a Cochrane review of interventions to reduce tobacco use in people experiencing homelessness, which highlighted the need for more high-quality research to engage and support this priority population. Benowitz contributed to a non-blinded RCT of podvape e-cigarettes in African American and Latinx smokers, which found e-cigarette use was associated with significantly decreased exposure to the lung carcinogen NNAL compared to those who continued smoking as usual. Van Blarigan received an R01 to study a remote intervention to improve nutrition and physical activity in colorectal cancer survivors (R01CA248774).

Theme 3: Translate knowledge into effective policies and programs to achieve equity in cancer outcomes across the cancer continuum.

The focus of Theme 3 is delivery. Miaskowski, Borno (PR Program), Chang, Chen, Kenfield (PR Program), Kober (BR Program), Rhoads, Van Blarigan, and Van Loon found alarmingly high rates of stress and symptom burden among patients with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lin and Borno (PR Program) reviewed Medicaid expansion and found positive effects on cancer health outcomes.Gomez, Carroll (PR Program), and Cooperberg (PR Program) reported that variations across SEER regions appeared to explain 17% of the observed differences in use of active surveillance for prostate cancer patients. Max, Yao, and Sung found that, similar to cigarettes, price increases in e-cigarettes result in reduced sales, and that reusable e-cigarettes are substitutes for cigarettes and disposable e-cigarettes are substitutes for reusable e-cigarettes, so tax policy should take these substitution effects into account. Chaffee found that smoke-free home policies were more effective than parental advice at prevention youth tobacco initiation. Guydish found a smoking prevalence of 68.9% in substance use treatment programs in California, and that approximately 1/3 of those smokers were ready to quit, highlighting the need for tobacco assessment and intervention in substance use treatment settings.

Roster of Cancer Control Program

Total: 83 members.

For details on membership criteria, please see our membership page.