Pacific Island Partnership for Cancer Health Equity

Since 2003, the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center (UH Cancer Center) and the University of Guam (UOG) have worked in partnership to explore the reasons behind significant cancer health disparities among Pacific Islanders in Hawaiʻi, Guam and the neighboring U.S. Associated Pacific Islands (USAPI). The Pacific Island Partnership for Cancer Health Equity is one of only 15 Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity (PACHE), a program of the NCI that supports cancer research capacity building at minority-serving institutions and collaborative research addressing cancer health disparities and their impact on underserved and socio-economically disadvantaged populations. The Pacific Island Partnership for Cancer Health Equity is the only PACHE grantee serving Pacific Islanders (PI), with an emphasis on Micronesians. The partnership addresses cancer health disparities through research, training, and community outreach.


Our overarching goal is to promote cancer health equity and mitigate the impact of cancer on Pacific Island Populations through increasing cancer research leadership and capacity in Hawaiʻi, Guam and the USAPI. As the only NCI-funded partnership serving the underrepresented Pacific Island region, our specific aims are to:

  1. Continue to develop a diverse portfolio of Pacific Island population-focused cancer research projects that include clinical, basic, and population health sciences;
  2. Collaborate with local and regional Pacific Island community organizations that work with underrepresented Pacific Island populations to promote cancer health equity and enhance opportunities for research training and workforce development;
  3. Sustain, strengthen, and continuously evaluate all of the Partnership’s research, core activities, and research education programs;
  4. Enhance and implement evidence-based, relevant, cancer-related public health interventions and cancer prevention and control strategies with and within underrepresented communities; and
  5. Expand the scientific collaboration among PIPCHE members and other UH and UH Cancer Center faculty, with an emphasis on recruiting Early Stage Investigators of Pacific Island ancestry.

Cycle 3 Research Projects (2020–2025)

Pilot Project I: Cross Sectional Analysis of Areca Alkaloids in Buccal Cells and Hair from Areca Nut Chewers as Candidate Biomarkers for Short and Long Term Areca Nut Exposure (Mendez/Franke)

Full Project I: Adolescent Tobacco and Betel Nut Use Prevention in Guam (Dalisay/Pokhrel)

Full Project II: Cynanotoxin and Liver Cancer Development in Two High-Risk Populations (Biggs/Hernandez)

Pre-Pilot I: Traditional and New Lifestyle Interventions for Breast Cancer Prevention (TANICA) (Esquivel/Aflague)

Pre-Pilot II: Colorectal Cancer Among CHamoru and Filipinos in Guam and Hawaiʻi; Recommendations for Screening Interventions and Programs (Diaz/Sy)

Pre-Pilot III: New Insights into Gastrointestinal Pathobiology for Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders (Bezabeh/Deng, Fei)

Pilot Project II:  Traditional And New Lifestyle Interventions for Breast Cancer Prevention (TANICA) Individuals plus Policy Systems and Environment (I+PSE) approach:  A Feasibility and Acceptability Study (Esquivel/Aflague)

Pilot Project III: Breast Cancer Risk Assessment in Hawaii and the USAPI (Badowski/Shepherd)


Research Education Core

Community Outreach Core

Shared Resource Cores (3):  Biostatistics, Cancer Registry, and Information Technology



Clinical Trials
PIPCHE leadership was influential in establishing the first cancer clinical trials in Guam, having brokered relationships and agreements between oncologists in Guam and the UH Cancer Center Clinical Trials Unit.  Since 2019, Guam has been a site for cancer clinical trials under the Minority/Underserved Hawaiʻi National Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP).

PIPCHE members formed relationships with and provided the latest science to coalitions and government agencies to inform and support public health legislation designed to address cancer priorities in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and Hawaiʻi. Among the most notable legislation was Bill 150-30, establishing the Guam Cancer Trust Fund in 2010. With funding from tobacco tax revenues, the Guam Cancer Trust Fund continues to provide over $2M per year to non-profit organizations, educational institutions, clinics and hospitals to support cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment services for cancer patients in Guam as well as outreach and education for the people of Guam.

View or download the full list of legislation influenced by PIPCHE-supported investigators, staff and trainees.

Research Infrastructure
In 2014, the Research Corporation of the University of Guam was established by Public Law 32-114 to create an efficient managerial environment to compete for and manage grants. The RCUOG is modeled after the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaiʻi (RCUH) and, likewise, governed by a Board of Directors.


PIPCHE has provided training in cancer health disparities research to a total of 90 students from the University of Guam and the University of Hawaiʻi since 2009. For more student trainee outcomes, see PIPCHE's Student Trainee Outcomes report for the period of 2009-2023.

Principal Investigators

Neal Palafox, MD, MPH
UH Cancer Center
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Brenda Hernandez, PhD, MPH
UH Cancer Center
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Rachael Leon Guerrero, PhD
University of Guam
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Research, research education, and community outreach conducted by PIPCHE is supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers U54CA143727 and U54CA143728.