Projects & Cores

Student and faculty member in a lab

Research Projects

Partnership for the Advancement of Cancer Research is dedicated to improving cancer health equity for the underserved populations in our communities.

To that end, we have established a broad portfolio of innovative cancer research projects that each address an unmet regional need among underrepresented populations. Click on the tabs below to learn more about each project. You can also learn more about our research on the Fred Hutch Website.

Project Title: Advancing Stable Isotope Resolved Metabolomics to Study Cancer Metabolism

Project Leaders: Lucas Sullivan (Fred Hutch), Samantha Carlisle (NMSU), Patrick Trainor (NMSU; Co-Investigator)

Project Summary: While cancer is a relatively heterogenous set of diseases, all cancers are characterized by significant alterations in cellular metabolism driven both by oncogenic mutations and the tumor microenvironment.Central to mapping cellular metabolism in both disease and non-diseased states is Stable Isotope Resolved Metabolomics (SIRM). While the analytical chemistry techniques and instruments utilized in SIRM experiments have undergone rapid technological advancement, statistical and inferential methodologies have lagged. This pilot project seeks to better understand cancer metabolism through SIRM data generation, development of better statistical methodology for analyzing such data, and creation of a user-friendly tool/interface for implementing these SIRM data/statistical analyses methods on future, independent projects.

Project Title: Improving Bioavailability of Cancer Preventive Phytonutrients in New Mexican Diets

Project Leaders: Heather Greenlee (Fred Hutch), Ivette Guzman (NMSU), Lois Stanford (NMSU; Co-Investigator), Johanna Lampe (Fred Hutch; Co-Investigator)

Project Summary: It is well established that phytonutrient-rich foods are cancer preventive and that diets high in phytochemicals such as carotenoids, tocopherols, and chlorophylls are associated with decreased cancer risk and recurrence. Historically, traditional dietary patterns across multiple cultures have been plant-based and phytonutrient-rich. As dietary patterns have westernized, they have become less plant-based and thus less phytonutrient-rich. In a new collaboration with community groups in southern New Mexico and an interdisciplinary team of investigators at Fred Hutch and NMSU, the team seeks to advance the science by identifying specific culinary traditions and methods to improve the diet quality and absorption of phytonutrients in Hispanic/Latino communities living along the Mexican border.

Project Title:  Novel immunity and chromatin strategies from bat placenta and sperm

Project Leaders: Harmit Malik (Fred Hutch), Teri Orr (NMSU)

Project Summary: The placenta is an unusual tissue that mediates communication between the mother and developing fetus. An optimal rate of cell proliferation is key for a successful pregnancy; reduced placental growth leads to poor embryo development and lower viability whereas uncontrolled proliferation leads to fetal abortion. Many aspects of placental biology relate to cancer; for example, choriocarcinoma is a fast-growing cancer of placental origin. This pilot will investigate dramatic variation in bat reproductive strategies including their unique and extensive reproductive pauses. The team seeks to uncover novel strategies bats employ to accomplish reproductive success despite these dramatic pauses during stages that have profound health consequences in humans.

Project Title: Social ecological influences on SGM tobacco use in New Mexico

Project Leaders: Jaimee Heffner(Fred Hutch), Tamara Stimatze (NMSU)

Project Summary: Sexual and gender minorities (SGM) — people who identify with a sexual orientation other than straight/heterosexual or a gender identity different than their sex assigned at birth — have a higher prevalence of cigarette smoking than the non-SGM population, putting this marginalized population at higher risk of tobacco-related disease and death, including cancer. Similar to national-level data, SGM individuals in New Mexico as a whole have higher rates of tobacco use than non-SGM individuals: 16.9% of New Mexicans who identify as straight are current smokers compared to 20.6% who identify as gay or lesbian and 33.8% who identify as bisexual. Smoking cessation among SGM adults in New Mexico is a high-impact prevention behavior that could be addressed via a targeted intervention, aided by an understanding of individual, interpersonal, community/organizational, and societal factors contributing to tobacco use as well as tobacco cessation experiences and preferences in this population.

Project Title: Exercise Countermeasure Strategies to Counteract Cancer Cachexia and Starve Tumors

Project Leaders: David Hockenbery(Fred Hutch), Sang-Rok Lee(NMSU)

Project Summary: Cancer cachexia, a paraneoplastic syndrome, is characterized by unexplained weight loss accompanied with substantial muscle wasting resistant to conventional nutritional suppot, leading to impaired qualify of life and lower survival rate. Unfortunately, many therapeutic attempts to ameliorate muscle wasting in patients with advanced cancer cachexia are unlikely to produce meaningful clinical outcomes. Prevention, therefore, may be the most practical approach to combat cancer cachexia. Pre-clinical research reported potential benefits from exercise countermeasure (EC) to combat muscle wasting as well as reduce tumor burden. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and other metabolic intermediates released from muscle breakdown may support the increased metabolic requirements of cancer cells, suggesting that prevention of cachexia may have anti-tumor effects. The potential benefit of restraining tumor growth prioritizes the need for identifying optimal EC strategies to prevent cancer cachexia. The important question of whether inhibition of tumor growth by exercise is associated with reductions in circulating amino acids or amino acid depletion in tumors has not been addressed. The overall objective of this study is to determine the clinical efficacy of different types of EC on cancer cachexia and tumor progresssion in ApcMin/+ mice.


In addition to our four research projects, PACR has five unique cores that promote the development of cancer research, education, community collaboration, in-reach and outreach.

To read more about each of the five cores, click on the tabs below.

Administrative Core

Core Leaders: Graciela Unguez, Julian Simon

Specific Aims: The Administrative Core functions as a strong link between the U54 Partnership MPIs and the project/core leaders.

The overarching goal of the Administrative Core is to maintain a seamless infrastructure that fosters the active exchange of information and support throughout the entire U54 Partnership. In addition, the Core links the U54 Partnership to external communities and stakeholders. The effective work of the core increases an understanding of cancer and cancer health disparities among our partners.

Planning and Evaluation Core

Specific Aims: The overall goal of the Planning and Evaluation Core is to monitor the progress of the U54 Partnership in meeting its goals and objectives.

This Core supports all five of the Partnership's goals. There are two committees (Internal Advisory Committee, IAC, and Program Steering Committee, PSC) and four advisory groups (three Community Advisory Boards (CABs) and a U54 Alumni Panel) within this Core which meet at least annually. These committees and groups review progress towards specific measurable outcomes of the projects and cores and provide feedback to the MPIs as well as the investigators.

Research Education About Cancer and Health (REACH) Core

Specific Aims: PACR is diversifying the community of scientists in cancer, cancer health, and biomedical research by supporting joint research education programs for students, postdocs, and faculty who are members of groups underrepresented (UR) in biomedical research. This partnership is able to achieve this goal because NMSU and Fred Hutch have established a strong collaborative research and educational program over 15 years funding, which has resulted in the maturation of a cancer research infrastructure at NMSU and a heightened knowledge of health disparities research at the Fred Hutch.

This core continues the progression of diversifying the community of scientist in cancer research through: implementing integrated biomedical research education programs, with an emphasis on cancer and/or health disparities research, across a spectrum of academic levels, and providing concurrent and on-going support for academic and professional goal attainment among program participants

Outreach Core

Specific Aims: The border region of New Mexico (NM), the northwestern region of NM known as Indian Country, and the Yakima Valley of Washington State (WA) are three areas where disparities are severe among Hispanic and American Indian (AI) people. The Outreach Core leads PACR in collaborating with regional community organizations that work with the underserved in these areas. Further, this core works with the state-wide Cooperative Extension Services (CES) to engage in cancer prevention and control activities throughout New Mexico.

A major task of our Outreach Core is to increase community capacity in all three of the regions of underserved populations to participate in cancer awareness, prevention, and control, by continuing to implement evidence-based relevant cancer-related public health interventions in underserved communities.

For more information about the Outreach Core and what we offer to the community, click here.

Sustain Competitive Cancer Early Stage Scientists (SuCCESS) Core

Specific Aims: The SuCCESS core provides shared professional development resources for Early Stage Investigators (ESIs) at both of our institutions. While both partners support the career development of their faculty through institutional resources, this core provides additional and specific professional development resources designed primarily for ESIs in cancer research and/or cancer health disparities research.

The goal of this core is to ultimately increase the number of faculty who conduct cancer research on the NMSU campus; increase the discussion of health disparities issues among scientists on both campuses; and help train future faculty to be able to effectively educate students from diverse backgrounds.