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News Highlights

September 20, 2018

New researcher joins UH Cancer Center faculty

The UH Cancer Center’s Cancer Biology Program welcomed Muller Fabbri, MD, PhD, as an associate researcher in June. “I was drawn to Hawai‘i because of its ethnic diversity and the abundance of natural products that fuels my research interests,” said Fabbri.

Fabbri’s research focuses on trying to understand the relationship between cancer cells and other surrounding cells including immune cells, cells that form blood vessel walls, and fibroblast cells that form collagen in the “tumor microenvironment”. Recently it has been found that the tumor microenvironment contributes to the growth of cancer cells.

In 2012, Fabbri discovered that cancer cells secrete microRNAs inside of tiny fluid-filled sacs called exosomes. He showed that exosomes can shuttle microRNAs from cancer cells to surrounding immune cells that carry a protein called TLR8. As a consequence of the interaction, a specific subtype of immune cells called macrophages stop fighting the growth of cancer cells and start secreting other proteins and other microRNAs that promote cancer cell growth, dissemination and resistance to therapy.

Fabbri’s research goal is to develop strategies to interrupt this communication between cancer cells and the tumor microenvironment in order to inhibit cancer growth and the development of resistance to treatment.

Muller Fabbri, MD, PhD
Muller Fabbri, MD, PhD

News Highlights

September 14, 2018


HONOLULU – The University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center proudly celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Multiethnic Cohort Study (MEC Study). The MEC Study is the most ethnically diverse epidemiologic study in the world that investigates the roles of lifestyle, diet and genetics in cancer and other chronic diseases.

“The MEC Study is being conducted to understand the differences in risk that exist for cancer and other chronic diseases among the main ethnic/racial groups living in Hawai‘i and California,” said Loïc Le Marchand, MD, PhD, UH Cancer Center epidemiologist and principal investigator of the study.

The MEC Study, which started in 1993, follows a group of individuals over time to see how the cohort members who develop cancer or other conditions differed in various risk factors several years before diagnosis. At the start of the study, over 215,000 Hawai‘i and Los Angeles residents, aged 45 to 75, were recruited when they completed a 26-page questionnaire about their dietary habits and lifestyle, as well as their medical history. Information about the participants is updated through follow-up questionnaires sent every five years. The cohort is comprised of men and women primarily of Japanese, Native Hawaiian, African American, Latino and Caucasian origin.

Guests attend the MEC Study celebration at the UH Cancer Center“After all these years, over 70 percent of all cohort members still fill out their questionnaires, demonstrating the participants’ exceptionally high level of commitment to the study,” said Le Marchand.

Biological specimens from cohort members (mainly blood and urine samples) were collected mostly in 2001-2006. Samples on more than 70,000 cohort participants are being stored in special low temperature freezers in Hawai`i and California. “Dozens of investigators and close to a hundred trainees have used MEC study data and samples for their research,” said Lynne Wilkens, DrPH, UH Cancer Center biostatistician and Co-Principal Investigator of the study.

“For 25 years now the MEC Study has continued to fulfill its mission to make a significant contribution to the goal of correcting cancer health disparities and preventing cancer and other chronic diseases in all populations,” said Randall Holcombe, MD, MBA, UH Cancer Center director. “We are proud to lead a study with such significant impact at the UH Cancer Center. The MEC study has gained national and international recognition among biomedical scientists, and is an example of the world-class research conducted at the University of Hawai‘i.”

The MEC Study has brought more than $150 million in federal research funding to the University of Hawai‘i. It has been funded since 1993 by the National Cancer Institute and is jointly conducted by the UH Cancer Center and the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.

Dr. Le Marchand, one of the Principal Investigators, is giving an introductory speech for the attendees

The MEC Study data has resulted in more than 600 published scientific articles on topics including smoking, diet, alcohol, coffee, meat cooking methods, physical activity, hormones, reproductive factors, genetics, inflammation, infections, sleep, air pollution, gut microbes, obesity and diabetes.


Listen to the MEC Study interview on Hawaii Public Radio, The Conversation

Visit the Multiethnic Cohort (MEC) Study pages for more information.


The University of Hawai'i Cancer Center through its various activities, cancer trial patients and their guests, and other visitors adds more than $54 million to the O'ahu economy. It is one of only 70 research institutions designated by the National Cancer Institute. Affiliated with the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, the Center is dedicated to eliminating cancer through research, education, patient care and community outreach with an emphasis on the unique ethnic, cultural, and environmental characteristics of Hawai'i and the Pacific. Learn more at Like us on Facebook at Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter.

News Highlights

September 20, 2018

World-renowned scholar honored with UH Cancer Center emeritus professorship

Laurence Kolonel, MD, PhD, was honored with an emeritus professorship at the UH Cancer Center in 2018. He has also held an emeritus professorship in the Office of Public Health Studies since 2013.

Kolonel served for 30 years as director of the epidemiology program at the Cancer Center. He is a world-renowned scholar in the fields of epidemiology and prostate cancer, and has published more than 500 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Kolonel was honored with an R-37 MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health for his research on diet and cancer. In 2013, he received the prestigious American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention from the American Association for Cancer Research. He is also the co-founder of the Multiethnic Cohort Study, which follows more than 215,000 participants for health events in Hawaiʻi and California.

Dr. Laurence Kolonel, <br >Professor Emeritus, UH Cancer Center
Dr. Laurence Kolonel,
Professor Emeritus,
UH Cancer Center

News Highlights

2018 University of Hawaii Cancer Center Summer Interns

June 4, 2018

High school and undergraduate students conduct innovative cancer research at the UH Cancer Center

HONOLULU –Twenty-three high school and undergraduate students conducted cancer research at the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center over the summer with support from both federal grant funds and generous philanthropic contributions from community groups.

This year’s internship program at the UH Cancer Center is supported by generous contributions from the Friends of the UH Cancer Center, the McInery Foundation, the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, the Meiji Yasuda Endowment, Dennet and Karen Azuma, the EACH Foundation along with some federal funding through the National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant.

“Community engagement is very important as part of our UH Cancer Center mission. Through this internship program we are able to reach out to young students across the island and help them get exposed to new research advances and innovative biomedical research,” said Randall Holcombe, MD, MBA, UH Cancer Center director.

“The Friends of the UH Cancer Center is honored to support this great local summer internship program where students receive valuable cancer research experience. We believe these eager students are Hawai‘i’s future bright scientists,” said Adelia Dung, Friends of the UH Cancer Center president.

The interns were chosen through a highly competitive process from public and private schools across the state and the nation. Out of 73 total applications 23 students were selected with an average GPA of 3.78. The internship projects include focuses such as cancer prevention and control measures, cancer epidemiology, bioinformatics, and basic cancer biology. The students receive a stipend to support their work, which is conducted over a two-month span. More than half of the Center’s summer interns are minority students who are interested in pursuing careers in science.

“Every summer, it is exciting to see how students with different backgrounds work on various research projects. What is noteworthy about the UH Cancer Center program is the opportunity for students to contribute to population studies that aim to lower cancer rates through improvements in lifestyle factors,” said Gertraud Maskarinec, Summer Internship Program director.

The internship program provides valuable research experience, and exposes young people to possible careers in the life sciences. Past program interns have gone on to earn advanced degrees from top universities before returning to work in Hawai‘i as physicians or scientists.

The Cancer Center’s program places interns under the guidance of faculty mentors, who help them gain research experience and complete an independent project. Past projects have included the study of how e-cigarette advertising affects use among young adults, a sun safety intervention program in an at-risk cohort of high school student athletes and developing a machine-learning pipeline to classify single-cell gene expression in cancer cells. At the end of the summer, Interns will present their research findings to their peers and to Cancer Center faculty at a poster session.

“Educating students is a priority for the UH Cancer Center. Tracking the progress of past student interns shows us that what they learn during the internship helps them pursue degrees and jobs in not only the cancer research field, but the medical and technology field as well,” said Joe W. Ramos, PhD, UH Cancer Center deputy director.

More poster presentation photos

2018 Cancer Center Summer Interns and their respective Mentors
Four High School StudentsMentors
Terric Abella (Kamehameha High School)
Peter Hoffmann, PhD
Aldrich Solomon (Waipahu High School)
Gertraud Maskarinec, MD, PhD
Bernadette Dela Cruz (Farrington High School
Pallav Pokhrel, PhD
Nalani Miller (Kamehameha High School)James Turkson, PhD
Nineteen Undergraduate Students
Shaina-Marie Acosta (Waipahu High School) attending Notre Dame De NamurKevin Cassel, DrPH
Rachel Arakawa (Kaiser High School) attending Chaminade UniversityPeter Hoffmann, PhD
Chloe Asato (Mililani High School) attending UH MānoaYurii Shvetsov, PhD
Theodore Huo (Punahou) attending University of California, BerkeleyPeiwen Fei, MD, PhD
Gabriella Jelffs (St. Andrew’s Priory) attending UH MānoaMichele Carbone, MD, PhD
Victor Kilonzo (Vilseck High School) UH MānoaRandall Holcombe, MD
Nina Krupa (Le Jardin) attending UH MānoaErin Bantum, PhD
Ethan Lee (Punahou) attending Cornell UniversityJohn Shephard, PhD
Eileen Liu (Punahou) attending Tufts UniversityPeiwen Fei, MD, PhD
Kevin Liu (Iolani High School) attending Carnegie Mellon UniversityMichelle Matter, PhD
Jhon Michael Malabed (Farrington High School) attending UH MānoaCarol Boushey, PhD
Daniel Ota (Punahou) attending Creighton UniversityMichelle Tallquist, PhD
Emily Rapoza (Punahou) attending Washing University in St. LouisKevin Cassel, DrPH
Richard Rista (Kamehameha High School) attending Creighton UniversityJames Turkson, PhD
Kayzel Tabangcura (Maui High School) attending UH MānoaPallav Pokhrel, PhD
Lindlelyn Tabula (James Campbell High School) attending UH MānoaYouping Deng, PhD
Anna Wen (McKinley High School) attending UH MānoaJoe Ramos, PhD
Lacye Yata attending UH MānoaJoe Ramos, PhD
Melanie Yuen (Iolani High School) attending Washington University of St. LouisHaining Yang, MD, PhD


The University of Hawai'i Cancer Center through its various activities, cancer trial patients and their guests, and other visitors adds more than $54 million to the O'ahu economy. It is one of only 70 research institutions designated by the National Cancer Institute. Affiliated with the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, the Center is dedicated to eliminating cancer through research, education, patient care and community outreach with an emphasis on the unique ethnic, cultural, and environmental characteristics of Hawai'i and the Pacific. Learn more at Like us on Facebook at Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter.