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Cancer Disparities Research & Training Program (SUCCEED)

A partnership between Virginia State University (VSU) and VCU's Massey Cancer Center

VSU-MCC Partnership for Cancer Disparities (SUCCEED)

The Virginia State University (VSU)-Massey Cancer Center partnership for Cancer Disparities (SUCCEED) Research and Training program is a National Cancer Institute (NCI) P20-funded collaborative initiative between VSU, an underrepresented minority-serving institution, and VCU’s Massey Cancer Center. Designed to facilitate research that will lead to an improved understanding of local cancer disparities and their determinants, both institutions will conduct joint pilot research projects and develop Cancer Research Education Programs (CREP) for VSU faculty and undergraduates interested in cancer disparities research.

Learn more about SUCCEED research activities and training programs below.

CREP for undergraduates at VSU

VSU undergraduates are invited to participate in a mentored summer experience exploring cancer health disparities research.

CREP for early stage investigators at VSU

This program is designed to expand early stage investigator's capacity to conduct cancer disparities-related and community-engaged research.

Pilot Projects

Project investigators:

Lead: Devanand Sarkar, Ph.D. (VCU)
Rafat Siddiqui, Ph.D. (VSU)
Seung Lee, M.D. (VCU)

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a highly fatal disease with mortality running parallel to its incidence. Globally, HCC is the fifth most common cancer and the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths and the incidence of HCC is increasing in the US at an alarming rate. In the US, it is estimated that there will be 42,030 new cases of HCC in 2019 of which 31,780 are expected to succumb to this disease. Lack of effective treatment for advanced HCC calls for insights into the molecular pathogenesis of HCC and development and evaluation of novel, targeted therapeutic strategies. For HCC, race/ethnicity plays an important role in determining incidence, mortality and survival rates. For patients with HCC, there is a statistically significant increase in incidence and mortality and decrease in 5-year survival rates in AA/Black patients compared to non-Hispanic white patients.

There is a gap of knowledge in our understanding of the molecular mechanism underlying the HCC racial disparity between AA/Black and white patients. It is hypothesized that persistent activation of the IFN-I signaling pathway might be a key determinant of racial disparity in patients with HCC, and even if IFN-I-inducible genes (ISGs) are induced in response to HCV infection their expression is maintained contributing to HCC development and virulence in AA/Black patients. It is further hypothesized that dietary compounds exert anticancer effects on HCC and because of their anti-inflammatory property they might modulate the IFN-I signaling pathway.

  • Aim 1: Determine the role of ISGs in conferring virulence in AA/Black patients with HCC
  • Aim 2: Determine the effects of dietary components on HCC PDX cell lines


Project investigators:

Lead: Maria Thomson, Ph.D. (VCU)
Michael Preston, Ph.D. (VCU)
Larry Keen III, Ph.D. (VSU)
John Fife, Ph.D. (VSU)

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of few cancers for which precancerous and early stage disease can be identified and treated successfully through preventive screening. Access and uptake of screening are key modifiable factors even after accounting for effects of insurance and poverty. Yet, CRC remains the third leading cause of cancer death among men in the US.1 African American (AA)/Black men experience 20% higher incidence, 45% higher mortality, and have the shortest CRC survival rates of all racial/ethnic groups. Increasing CRC screening rates is recommended by the Blue Ribbon Panel for the Cancer Moonshot and endorsed by the National Cancer Advisory Board. Unfortunately, CRC screening rates among AA/Black men are 10%-30% lower than other racial/ethnic groups. Of the 22 NCI evidence-based CRC programs, none were specifically designed for AA/Black men. Interventions designed to reach and engage AA/Black men are critical, but are not widely available.

The proposed study fills a gap in translational research by leveraging a promising screening intervention, Screen to Save (S2S) to develop and test an enhanced mobile health (mHealth) S2S intervention culturally tailored for AA/Black men. Clinically, this is significant because AA/Black men remain a dramatically underserved group that has not equally benefited from existing colorectal cancer CRC education or screening interventions. It is hypothesized that tailored messages delivered at barbershops using mHealth colorectal cancer interventions that aim to modify knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and norms will influence AA/Black men’s perceived individual and systemic barriers to colorectal cancer screening behaviors and provide cues to actively seek preventive care to get screened for colorectal cancer.

  • Aim 1: Determine factors associated with self-reported CRC screening behaviors among (n=175) AA/Black men in Petersburg, VA
  • Aim 2: Develop tailored S2S content for AA/Black men to be delivered using a combination of short video and text-based information optimized for delivery via QR codes for smartphones
  • Aim 3: Evaluate the feasibility of delivering the S2S mHealth intervention for AA/Black men (n=30) delivered via local barbershops