Full projects

Testing Home-Based Exercise Strategies to Improve Exercise Participation and Cardiovascular Health in Underserved Minority Patients with Cancer Undergoing Chemotherapy – THRIVE Study
DF/HCC: Christina Dieli-Conwright, PhD, MPH, FACSM, CSCS
UMass Boston: Huimin Yan, PhD
Project dates: 9/2021 – 8/2024

Our project seeks to perform a randomized trial to examine the effect of 16-week supervised and unsupervised exercise interventions in sedentary, overweight, or obese Hispanic and Black cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy for the treatment of breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer. Despite the beneficial effect of exercise training for cancer patients, rates of participation in clinical cancer trials are low among disadvantaged and racial/ethnic minority groups, possibly due to greater barriers and less access to exercise training. Therefore, the need for novel accessible and cost- effective home-based exercise intervention aimed at the Hispanic and Black communities to better understand physical activity interventions is crucial. 

Public health relevance
Profound disparities exist in comorbid disease risk and lifestyle behaviors during and following chemotherapy in Hispanic and Black cancer patients, compared with European American counterparts. This includes declines in cardiorespiratory fitness paired with cardiotoxic effects, placing minority cancer patients at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease.  

Targeting Androgen Receptor Signaling in Prostate Cancer in Men with African Ancestry
DF/HCC: Steven Balk, MD, PhD
UMass Boston: Changmeng Cai, PhD
Project dates: 9/2021 – 8/2024

Our project seeks to test if differences in androgen receptor (AR) signaling contribute to the biological differences between prostate cancer (PCa) in men with African ancestry (AA) versus men with European ancestry (EA), and that PCa in AA men may have distinct AR-dependencies and be vulnerable to therapies that combine AR-targeted therapies with other targeted agents. 

Public health relevance
Prostate cancer (PCa) is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in American men. Although men with European ancestry (EA) still represent the largest population of PCa patients, men with African ancestry (AA) are disproportionately affected by PCa with higher prevalence and worse outcomes. 

Pilot projects

High Frequency of CHD1 Loss in BRCA2- Deficient African American Prostate Tumors Drives Tumor Formation by Suppressing Replication Stress
DF/HCC: Zoltan Szallasi, MD
UMass Boston: Shailja Pathania, PhD
Project dates: 9/2021 – 8/2023

This project seeks to test specific genetic components that have been identified through preliminary studies by both Dr. Szallasi’s and Dr. Pathania’s groups as contributing factors to the high incidence and mortality rates of men with African ancestry (AA) than men with European ancestry (EA).

Public health relevance
Prostatic adenocarcinoma is a cancer type with one of the most significant racial disparity both in terms of incidence and mortality. Men of African ancestry have a significantly worse outcome with a 2.4-fold increased mortality rate compared with men of European ancestry.

Impact of Changing Restaurant Advertising on Weight Gain and Disparities
DF/HCC: Sara Bleich, PhD and Briana Stephenson, MPH, PhD
UMass Boston: Dania Francis, PhD and Keren Horn, PhD
Project dates: 9/2021 – 8/2023

Advertisements for unhealthy items are often targeted towards those at higher risk for obesity, and unhealthy food retail outlets, like fast-food restaurants, are more densely located in low-income and minority communities. Therefore, the restaurant environment may more negatively impact low-income and racial minority populations. To address the knowledge gap on the relationship between restaurant advertising and obesity risks amongst adults, we will combine multiple data sources to create a unique, objective measure of local per capita restaurant advertising. 

Public health relevance
Obesity is associated with 13 cancers and up to 11% of cancer in the United States is associated with excess body mass index (BMI). Evidence suggests that the food environment is associated with obesity risk, which affects one-third of adults.

Completed projects

Former projects from the previous grant cycles can be found on the Past Projects page.