NCCU-DUKE Cancer Disparities Translational Research Partnership


Steven Patierno, PhD

Director (DCI)

Kevin Williams, PhD

Director (NCCU)

Nadine Barrett, PhD

Co-Director, Training Program

Program Overview

This partnership, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities, brings together many researchers from both North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and Duke and is developing infrastructure that targets translational cancer disparities research.

We are achieving our goals in several ways:

  1. Supporting translational research in cancer disparities
    1. Characterizing the genetic differences of aggressive prostate cancer in African American men to improve screening, treatment and outcomes
    2. Understanding mechanisms of inflammatory breast cancer, a highly malignant breast cancer subtype occurring predominantly in African American women
  2. Establishing the Cancer Research Education Program (C-REP), which rigorously addresses career development across doctoral trainees and postdoctoral fellows. C-REP leverages a variety of resources at both NCCU and Duke to recruit and train underrepresented minorities in the following areas:
    1. Translational Cancer Disparities Research
    2. Clinical Research Operations
    3. Professional Development
    4. Community Engagement

To find out more, or to request an application for C-REP, please contact us:

Donna Crabtree, PhD, Duke University Program Manager 

Vince Chandler, MPA, NCCU Program Manager 

Focus Areas

Translational Research in Cancer Disparities

  • African Americans are diagnosed with and die from prostate cancer more often than whites. We aim to understand the underlying genetic differences between African American and white prostate cancer and the importance of these differences to prostate cancer aggressiveness and response to treatment. This work will pave the way toward development of new approaches for preventing, diagnosing and treating aggressive prostate cancer. Our goal is to reduce the number of African American men who are diagnosed with and die from prostate cancer.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is one of the most lethal forms of breast cancer and is particularly devastating in disadvantaged minority women who have both a higher incidence and poorer survival. Our research is relevant to public health as an understanding of genetic factors involved in IBC will inform clinical practice and ultimately lead to novel treatment approaches for IBC. The long-term outcomes of our work are expected to have a significant impact on understanding and reducing IBC cancer health disparities among racial groups.

Cancer Research Education Program (C-REP)

  • C-REP provides comprehensive research training opportunities for underrepresented minority PhD students and postdoctoral fellows in translational cancer disparities research. C-REP prepares young scientists to enter a diverse research workforce. C-REP enhances the traditional doctoral experience by providing access to translational/clinical research operations, processes, and patient accrual, with emphasis on minority accrual, patient navigation and community outreach.
  • C-REP is led by Nadine Barrett, PhD, (Duke) and Carla Oldham, PhD (NCCU)

Community Outreach

  • Cancer health disparities-focused education and training efforts are being led by both NCCU and Duke. In addition, we have established a Community Advisory Board to help guide community engagement through community outreach and education with a focus on clinical trials, clinical trial participation, and cancer prevention and control. 

Scientific Highlights

The Cancer Disparities Translational Research Partnership has generated a variety of novel findings and publications, as well as media attention and coverage. Below is a small sampling of our program’s impact.

  1. NCI Funds $2 Million Grant For Duke-NCCU Disparities Research Partnership:
  2. NCCU, Duke partnership lands funding for cancer studies:
  3. Study shows that BPA may affect inflammatory breast cancer. Link to article on Duke Health website: and link to actual article:
  4. NCCU Researchers Target Aggressive Breast Cancers that disproportionately affect minorities:
  5. A frank conversation about prostate cancer in African American men:
  6. Reaching the African American community to enhance awareness about prostate cancer screening:
  7. Gayathri Devi, PhD, Awarded Department of Defense Breakthrough Award to Study Breast Cancer Metastasis:
  8. Relation of Comorbidities and Patient Navigation with the Time to Diagnostic Resolution after Abnormal Cancer Screening:
  9. Satisfaction with cancer care among underserved racial-ethnic minorities and lower-income patients receiving patient navigation:
  10. Inflammatory breast cancer tumor emboli express high levels of anti-apoptotic proteins: use of a quantitative high content and high-throughput 3D IBC spheroid assay to identify targeting strategies:
  11. Associations between RNA splicing regulatory variants of stemness-related genes and racial disparities in susceptibility to prostate cancer:
  12. Identification and Functional Validation of Reciprocal microRNA-mRNA Pairings in African American Prostate Cancer Disparities:
  13. Androgen receptor-target genes in African American prostate cancer disparities:
  14. Identification of differentially methylated genes in normal prostate tissues from African American and Caucasian men:
  15. North Carolina Researchers Receive $2,965,000 in Research Funding from Susan G. Komen®:
  16. Komen Grant Funds Breast Cancer Research and Training at NCCU:

Clinical Trials

One of the primary goals of C-REP is to develop and implement tailored interventions to increase diversity and inclusion in clinical trials. We are providing resources and services to improve the quality, safety and efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and impact of clinical and translational research. By engaging in community outreach and education, we are adding samples to a biospecimen repository, which allows us to investigate pathological mechanisms in cancer disparities. Having a clearer understanding of the molecular characteristics of these diseases that disproportionately affect minorities will allow us to move forward into prospective clinical trials using rationally designed, targeted therapeutics.