Melissa Simon, MD, MPH
Principal Investigator, Administrative Core Co-Director and Developmental Research Program Co-Director
Daniela Matei, MD
Co-Principal Investigator, Administrative Core Co-Director and Research Project 2 Basic Co-Leader
J. Julie Kim, PhD
Developmental Research Program Co-Director and Research Project 1 Basic Co-Leader
Dario Roque, MD
Research Project 1 Clinical Co-Leader
Emma Barber, MD
Research Project 2 Clinical Co-Leader
Jian-Jun Wei, MD
Gynecologic Biospecimen Pathology Core Co-Director
Thomas Lad, MD
Gynecologic Biospecimen Pathology Core Co-Director, John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County
NU-CHERS teams of basic and clinical investigators conduct innovative translational research focused on understanding and reducing gynecologic cancer disparities. Initial research projects focus on endometrial and ovarian cancer disparities as experienced by black women.
Research Project 1
Understanding Racial Disparity in Endometrial Cancer through Tumor Genomics
Leaders: J. Julie Kim, PhD and Dario R. Roque, MD
Racial disparity is present in endometrial cancer with black women exhibiting increased aggressive disease and a higher death rate compared to white women. This project investigates the biological etiology through tumor genomics and explores racial disparity for progestin response given that young black women exhibit advanced disease with worse prognosis compared to young white women. This is the first comprehensive genomics analysis of endometrial tumors to study the molecular etiologies of racial disparities.
Research Project 2
Tumor Methylomics Analysis Link with Racial Disparities in Ovarian Cancer
Leaders: Daniela Matei, MD and Emma Barber, MD
Ovarian cancer remains the deadliest cancer with significantly reduced survival rates among black women compared to white women, despite similar stage distribution and histological types at diagnosis. This project focuses on epigenetic markers, particularly DNA methylation, which we hypothesize function as a link between socio-economic or environmental factors and genomic alterations to alter the course of the disease and response to therapy. We aim to identify key oncogenic drivers regulated epigenetically in tumors from black vs. white women and generate useful new resources (organoids and patient-derived xenografts) to continue to address biological questions related to racial differences in ovarian cancer response to treatment.
Gynecologic Biospecimen Pathology Core
Directors: Jian-Jun Wei, MD & Thomas Lad, MD
The Gynecologic Biospecimen Pathology Core is a collaborative effort between Northwestern University, the Lurie Cancer Center and John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County to collect gynecologic specimens from patients undergoing surgery to treat their cancer. The collection of these specimens is critical to furthering research to substantiate disparities experienced by black and white women in types of cancers diagnosis to survival outcomes in Chicago. Establishing this biobank creates sustainability for researchers focused on identifying scientific reason for disparities that can be translated into treatment initiatives directed at improving black women’s outcomes of gynecologic cancers.
Developmental Research Program
Directors: Melissa Simon, MD, MPH & J. Julie Kim, PhD
The Developmental Research Program is an incubator of novel, cutting edge and competitive translational research of gynecologic cancer disparities. The program’s mission centers on the theme of Contemporary Translational Approaches to Advancing Health Equity in the Detection, Diagnoses, and Treatment of Gynecologic Cancers. Through this mission, merited projects with the highest probabilities of significant impact in disrupting the health disparities experienced by black women will be funded. It is this program’s expectation that selected projects will secure more substantial funding at the end of the project period to advance the work of eliminating disparities of BIPOC women. These funding opportunities can provide career enhancement training to scientists, clinicians and communities to support their efforts at affecting impact within gynecologic cancer disparities. It also exposes new or refocusing investigators to the rigors of NIH style review and competitive funding application process. Through educational seminars a new audience will be exposed to health inequities, translational research and its impact on patients.
- Developmental Research Projects are collaborative 2-year translational projects meant to produce meaningful data that can be expanded upon within additional funding at the end of the project term. The projects provide an opportunity for a basic scientist and clinician to work together to translate clinical observations into scientific demonstrations.
- Career Enhancement Projects are 1-year opportunities intended to help create a career enhancement pipeline for early-stage and established investigators to enhance or refocus their career on translational research with a gynecologic cancer health disparities focus. This project pairs investigators with mentors to provide guidance and optimize the project for ultimate results for greatest impact in better understanding cancer disparities experienced by black women.
- Seminars & Education planning provide an opportunity to raise awareness of cancer disparities in gynecologic cancers with basic scientists, clinicians, students, and community partners. Seminars will range in topics related to cancer disparities including but not limited to basic, translational and population health sciences. As well as scientific and community based research practices and considerations.
- Visit CHET calendar for upcoming events
Pilot Project Funding
- NU-CHERS offers competitive funding opportunities to support projects that demonstrate high-impact innovation in clinical and basic science research and focus on a complex, poorly understood area of gynecologic cancer disparities research, in particular, ovarian, endometrial and cervical cancer research.
- Download Current RFA for Pilot Awards
- Increasing diversity in clinical trials is a critical tool to eliminating gynecologic cancer disparities experienced by BIPOC women. Locally this effort is being supported by the Health for All initiative which provides resources and information to prospective clinical trial participants to support them in making an informed decision about participating in a clinical trial. This program aims to eliminate the barriers that limit access or awareness of clinical trials to diverse populations. Funding from the National Library of Medicine has supported the development of a web-based tool that is a centralized resource to help the general public learn more about clinical trials and to specifically increase clinical trials awareness and knowledge among populations underrepresented in clinical trials.
Visit the Health for All Website to Learn More
For more information about Northwestern’s Cancer Health Equity Research SPORE and any of its programs, please contact:
NU-CHERS Project Manager