Pancreatic Cancer

& Genetic Epidemiology

Investigating the cause of racial/ethnic disparity in pancreatic cancer incidence (PI Setiawan: R01CA209798):

Pancreatic cancer (PC) is one of the deadliest cancers with a 5-year survival rate of 7%. Notable racial/ethnic differences in PC incidence have been observed, with U.S. blacks having 30% higher rates compared to whites. The rates of PC in Native Hawaiians and Japanese Americans have been rising in past two decades and have surpassed those of whites, but no study has been conducted to identify the cause(s) of this rising incidence. In the large prospective Multiethnic Cohort Study (MEC; N>200,000) we observed highly significant differences in PC incidence across racial/ethnic populations, with African Americans having 39% higher rates compared to whites. Native Hawaiians are observed to have the highest rates in the cohort that are 74% higher than whites while rates in Japanese Americans are 32% higher and rates in Latinos are similar to whites. We expect that inter-ethnic differences in risk factor prevalence are likely to explain the observed ethnic differences in PC incidence. However, to date, few studies have included African Americans and no studies have included Japanese Americans, Native Hawaiians, or Latinos; thus, the factors underlying PC disparities remain undefined. The goal of this study is to identify factors that explain racial/ethnic disparities in PC incidence, particularly the excess risks observed in African Americans, Japanese Americans, and Native Hawaiians. We hypothesize that in addition to known risk factors, host genetic factors and unknown non-genetic factors contribute to the observed racial/ethnic differences in PC incidence. To test our hypothesis, we will leverage the well-characterized lifestyle and genetic data of the MEC, a long-standing ethnically diverse prospective cohort of >200,000 African American, Latino, Native Hawaiian, Japanese and white participants established in the early 1990’s in California and Hawaii. The MEC is uniquely positioned to address racial/ethnic disparities in PC incidence, with >2,100 incident cases of PC diagnosed over >20-years of follow-up and with detailed lifestyle and exposure data collected in a consistent fashion amongst all populations to permit valid ethnic comparisons. Our specific aims are: 1) To quantify racial/ethnic-specific associations of known and potential/suspected risk factors with PC incidence in African Americans, Japanese Americans, Latinos, Native Hawaiians, and whites; 2) To determine whether the risk factors confirmed or discovered in Aim 1 contribute to the observed ethnic differences in PC incidence; 3) To characterize the association of known common genetic variants with PC risk in African Americans, Japanese Americans, Latinos, and Native Hawaiians and build a quantitative risk model to compare the distribution of genetic risks across populations associated with these marker alleles. By leveraging the existing resources/infrastructure, this study will efficiently and cost-effectively examine multiple factors that may contribute to racial/ethnic disparities in PC. Because of the lack of effective treatment and low survivorship, identifying modifiable risk factors is critical in reducing PC burden; this is even more crucial for minority populations who are at greater risk and are likely to have limited access to care.