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News Highlights

December 18, 2018

UH Cancer Center study shows Japanese Americans are predisposed to excess body fat inside the abdomen and liver


The figure shows how two people with similar levels of body mass index, weight and waist circumference can show largely different amounts of visceral fat vs. fat under the skin in the abdomen

HONOLULU – A University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center study revealed Japanese Americans have a greater predisposition to accumulate fat inside the abdomen (visceral fat) and liver (liver fat), compared to other races/ethnicities.

“This new discovery is important because excess visceral fat and liver fat found in Japanese Americans pose a much greater risk of metabolic disorders than fat stored in other body areas. These metabolic disorders if left untreated may lead to heart disease, diabetes and more than a dozen types of common cancers,” said Unhee Lim, PhD, UH Cancer Center epidemiologist and the study’s lead author.

Researchers for the study published in Gastroenterology collected data from almost 2,000 participants in the Multiethnic Cohort Study (Hawai‘i and Los Angeles residents, 60–77 years old; of African, European (white), Japanese, Latino, or Native Hawaiian ancestry) from 2013 to 2016. The study is the most ethnically diverse study conducted to date measuring body fat distribution accurately with whole-body composition imaging and abdominal MRI.

Distribution of fat as visceral, and liver fat varied significantly with ethnicity—they were highest in Japanese Americans, lowest in African Americans, and intermediate in the other ethnic groups. For the same amount of total body fat and compared with African Americans, visceral fat area was 45 and 73 percent greater in Japanese American men and women, respectively, and liver fat was 61 and 122 percent greater in Japanese American men and women.

“Our goal is to develop blood markers of visceral and liver fat in order to identify high-risk individuals for prevention of metabolic diseases. We are also testing dietary and lifestyle changes that would specifically reduce visceral fat and liver fat. Physicians in Hawai‘i and elsewhere should be aware that race/ethnicity is an important risk factor for metabolic diseases and obesity-related cancers,” said Loïc Le Marchand, UH Cancer Center epidemiologist and study’s principal investigator.


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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 www.uhcancercenter.org. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UHCancerCenter. Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter

News Highlights

December 14, 2018

10th Annual Weinman Symposium

World-renowned scientists spoke at the 10th Annual Weinman Symposium. The scientists covered some of the latest cancer research findings, specifically cancer syndromes. Cancer syndromes are genetic disorders in which inherited genetic mutations in one or more genes predispose individuals to the development of cancers. Top scientists from across the nation presented their research findings, and look at opportunities for research collaborations. High school students from Maryknoll School and other students from across the state were here to listen to the researchers.

Webster Cavanee, PhD, received the 10th Weinman Award for outstanding cancer research contribution. Cavanee discovered the existence of tumor suppressor genes in many human cancers. He and his team have also pioneered understanding the genetic basis for glioblastoma, the most lethal and common brain tumor, developed therapies that target these lesions and uncovered several mechanisms of resistance.

The Weinman Symposium is supported by the generosity of the Weinman Foundation.

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2018 Weinman Symposium video clip

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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 www.uhcancercenter.org. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UHCancerCenter. Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter

News Highlights

December 14, 2018

8th Annual Quest for a Cure

Leading UH Cancer Center and community scientists spoke at the 8th Annual Quest for the Cure event. Researchers covered some of the latest research findings regarding the microbiome and its relationship with cancer. The microbiome is all of the organisms (or bacteria) within a body and how they work together to protect us from germs, break down food to release energy and produce the vitamins we need. Scientists specifically covered:

  • Role of microbes in the health of humans and other animals
  • Clinical perspective of the human microbiome in health and illness
  • Role of the oral microbiome in health and disease
  • Impact of diet on the gut microbiome in health and disease
  • Relationship between the gut microbiome and obesity
  • Alterations to the human microbiome that lead to liver and bile duct cancer

The Quest for the Cure event gives the island community the opportunity to learn more about emerging cancer research within their own community, here in Hawaiʻi. Over 80 people attended.

The Quest for the Cure event is supported by the generosity of the Friends of the UH Cancer Center.






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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 www.uhcancercenter.org. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UHCancerCenter. Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter

News Highlights

November 21, 2018

UH Cancer Center researcher awarded $1.4M for e-cigarette research

HONOLULU – The National Cancer Institute and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration awarded a three year $1.4 million grant for e-cigarette research to University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center researcher, Pallav Pokhrel, PhD. Pokhrel and his team will examine how marketing spreads e-cigarette knowledge, attitudes and behavior through young adult networks.

“E-cigarettes are currently poorly regulated but e-cigarette use is increasingly prevalent among youth and young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 years old,” said Pokhrel. “Currently the public health consequences of e-cigarette use are largely unknown. This new study aims to generate knowledge that will help develop tobacco control policies and interventions that would promote the health of young adults in Hawai‘i and across the nation.”

The research will also help identify vulnerable groups of young adults who develop nicotine addiction as a result of targeted e-cigarette marketing, and will highlight how e-cigarette use spreads among this age group as a result of marketing.

“The FDA recently addressed the alarming epidemic of youth e-cigarette use by creating historic enforcement actions on e-cigarette marketing. Receiving the competitive federal grant is a recognition of the University of Hawai‘i’s leadership on this national problem,” said Randall Holcombe, UH Cancer Center director.

Pokhrel received a three year $2.6 million grant in 2016, which focuses on e-cigarette marketing and tobacco product use behavior. The new grant will supplement this research.

The grant was also supported by the NCI and FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) with funds coming from the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act. All of the project costs are financed with federal funds, the total anticipated amount is $1,385,787.

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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 www.uhcancercenter.org. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/UHCancerCenter. Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter.