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University of Hawaii Cancer Center

News Highlights

June 3, 2015

External Advisory Committee completes its yearly visit

Every cancer center that has a designation from the National Cancer Institute has an External Advisory Committee (EAC) that visits each year to assess the center's progress. The University of Hawai'i Cancer Center's EAC made its annual visit on June 1 and 2.

The EAC is composed of scientists and administrators from cancer centers around the nation. They met with UH Cancer Center faculty and leadership, as well as Hawai'i legislative leaders, during their visit.

In preliminary comments, the committee noted that the Cancer Center has faced some challenges but needs to focus on the future.

Committee members urged the Cancer Center to think deeply about the direction of its scientific programs, including how to best serve the unique multiethnic population in the islands.

They emphasized that such an approach would be "valuable to the national cancer effort." Understanding how cancer affects people of various ethnicities differently helps to highlight opportunities for earlier detection and treatment for everyone. This is something that makes Hawai'i special, and is a globally recognized strength of the Cancer Center.

The committee noted that it was a "time of considerable danger and risk, but also of great opportunity."

The committee members also advised Cancer Center stakeholders to work together better and to take care not to lose its NCI designation. If the designation was lost, it would be a serious matter and the designation would not be regained easily. In the meantime the people of Hawai'i would suffer, they said.

Of the NCI's $5 billion in annual research funding, 85% goes to the 68 cancer centers with a designation. Without a designation, a cancer center won't be competitive for major research grants.


News Highlights

May 22, 2015

Award-winning singer, Jimmy Borges, opens up about battle with liver cancer

Award-winning singer and actor, Jimmy Borges, was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2011. He said his Chinese side of the family was prone to and impacted by Hepatitis B. Doctors found a football sized tumor when he went in for a check-up. Borges is one of hundreds of people in Hawaii who have been directly affected or have known someone with liver cancer.

He shared his journey with cancer at the UH Cancer Center's Global Liver Cancer Conference on May 22 and in the video below.


News Highlights

June 5, 2015

Phil Olsen


The four local girls honor relatives who survived breast cancer, and are the youngest known donors to the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center

HONOLULU - Four local fourth graders are funding breast cancer research in Hawaii in honor of relatives who have battled the disease, and their $760 donation makes them the youngest known donors to the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center.

The four girls – all students at Punahou School – raised the money through a series of bake sales and presented a check to the UH Cancer Center on Friday, June 5.

After the donation celebration the girls toured the Cancer Center and spoke with researchers Lenora Loo, PhD, and Brenda Hernandez, PhD, about breast cancer research at the Center.

The four students, Kiyera Werny, Shaylee Ungos, Devyn Goo and Kendall Kirton, designated the money for breast cancer research because Kiyera's aunt and Devyn's great grandmother are both breast cancer survivors.

"This donation shows a level of maturity, generosity, hard work and caring that sets the example for all donors, of any age," said Dr. Jerris Hedges, dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine and interim director of the Cancer Center.

Kiyera's aunt, Sandra Shim, is a pharmaceutical sales representative whose battle with breast cancer inspired the girls to choose cancer research for their philanthropy.

"It was super-duper scary but luckily Aunty Sandra is very strong and brave, and fought the cancer. And now she is cancer free!" said Kiyera. Devyn's great grandmother, Mildred Goo, is a 19-year survivor of breast cancer.

The girls are also donating a portion of their proceeds to the Hawaiian Humane Society, where two of the girls adopted dogs. All of the girls acknowledged the encouragement of their teacher, Kris Schwengel, and the support of their families in raising the money for the donation.

The UH Cancer Center has many dedicated funds for specific cancer-related research projects such as those focusing on liver, breast, pancreatic and ovarian cancer. If you have a specific area of interest you would like to support, please call or email Elaine Evans This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (808) 692-0991.

You can also make a gift online at


News Highlights

August 17, 2015


New grant to study an aggressive cancer that attacks the lining of the chest wall to potentially improve survival for patients

HONOLULU – A University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researcher has received a five-year RO1 $1.9 million grant to study the growth of mesothelioma, an aggressive and deadly asbestos-related cancer.

The panel of National Cancer Institute grant reviewers said the research, "addresses a very significant public health problem; finding biomarkers for early diagnostic of MM is crucial for patient survival."

Early MM detection leads to better responses to therapy and prolonged survival for patients. Most patients who are diagnosed with the disease live less than one year from the time of diagnosis. Mesothelioma is common in individuals continuously exposed to carcinogenic mineral fibers such as asbestos.

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The grant was awarded to investigate families that have a certain gene mutation. All carriers of this BAP1 mutation develop one or more types of cancers including mesothelioma, melanoma, kidney, gallbladder, and sarcoma by the age of 55. Mesothelioma accounts for more than 50% of their deaths.

The proposed studies will determine how BAP1 mutations increase susceptibility to mesothelioma, and evaluate whether a certain protein can be used as a way to help detect the cancer earlier in people considered to be high-risk.

Dr. Michele Carbone, MD, PhD, director of the UH Cancer Center's Thoracic Oncology Program, will head the research along with Dr. Haining Yang, PhD, an associate professor in the Thoracic Oncology Program.

"Federal grants are important to the local economy, the money is largely spent locally creating new job opportunities, and it is used to offset the cost of the researchers," said Carbone.

"The grant provides us the means to conduct research to find ways to prevent cancer, or to detect it at an early stage when these patients can be treated and their lives can be possibly saved."