Executive Summary

Since its inception in 1994, the Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences has grown from a modest number of researchers to over 400 employees, including 70 faculty encompassed within five departments, three centers and one institute. As the 10th anniversary of the division approached in 2004, its name was changed from the Division of Cancer Prevention to the Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences to reflect the expanded scope of the research being conducted on health disparities and the unequal burden of cancer in underserved populations. The five departments within the division are Behavioral Science, Clinical Cancer Prevention, Epidemiology, Health Disparities Research and Health Services Research.

The mission of the Department of Behavioral Science is to conduct biobehavioral research on cancer risk behaviors and to develop, implement, evaluate and disseminate interventions that contribute to preventing and reducing cancer incidence, mortality and morbidity. The department focuses on three major areas of research: tobacco and smoking, screening and early detection and psychosocial oncology. The Behavioral Research and Treatment Center, which is led by the Behavioral Science department, conducts a wide range of research projects in exercise physiology, the psychoneurophysiology of craving and addiction, psychological issues in survivorship. In addition, it provides one of the most comprehensive tobacco-cessation programs in the United States. The Tobacco Treatment Program successfully combines an array of services including behavioral counseling, nicotine replacement therapy and customized, patient-focused treatment plans developed and staffed by a multidisciplinary team representing psychology, psychiatry, social work and nursing all aimed at tobacco cessation. These services are provided at no charge to patients and employees.

The Clinical Cancer Prevention Department’s mission is to reduce cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality through multifaceted cancer prevention approaches on the local, national and international levels. Through laboratory and clinical studies, researchers are identifying lifestyle factors, genetic predisposition and molecular events contributing to the development and prevention of cancer. The Cancer Prevention Center is led by the department and provides a comprehensive roster of evidence-based cancer screening and personalized risk reduction services. It is staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and health educators. The Center also houses the Undiagnosed Breast Clinic to assess and diagnose breast abnormalities and the Undiagnosed Dermatology Clinic to evaluate skin changes and irregularities. Within the last few years, the Center has implemented the MD Anderson Patient History Database to provide a standardized foundation of data important in developing personalized risk assessments. With appropriate informed consent, this new tool and the CPC Biospecimen Repository will be critical tools for clinical investigations intended to offer our patients better options for risk characterization and reduction in the future. This focus on research-driven patient care is the cornerstone of MD Anderson’s excellence.

The focus of the Department of Epidemiology is on researching the etiology and prevention of cancer, elucidating gene-environment interactions involved in cancer initiation and development, establishing and maintaining large data and biospecimen repositories and studying medically underserved populations to understand cancer-related risk and protective factors. In addition, faculty are actively engaged in translating their genetic and environment discoveries into integrated models of risk characterization that can be implemented in the clinic to improve personalized cancer prevention strategies.

The Department of Health Disparities Research was founded in 2005 with the mission of reducing - and ultimately eliminating - disparities in cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality by investigating the causes of inequalities and developing social, behavioral and medical interventions to eliminate them. The department focuses on six major areas of research directly relevant to cancer health disparities in our population: diet, physical activity, tobacco, environmental exposures, public and personal health communications and health care delivery systems. The first congressionally mandated health disparities center was established at MD Anderson in November 1999. The Center for Research on Minority Health, which is led by faculty in the Department of Health Disparities Research, seeks to ameliorate the disproportionate incidence and prevalence of cancer among ethnic and medically underserved populations by providing MD Anderson faculty across the campus with dedicated expertise, experience and a suite of services to support research and service projects in these communities. The types of support offered by the CRMH include research design (especially related to community-based participatory research), community outreach, clinical preventive services, data management, statistical, educational and administrative.

The Department of Health Services Research conducts the highest quality health services research with the ultimate aims of optimizing health care delivery and improving outcomes for the prevention and treatment of cancer. The department's goals focus on being a nationally and internationally recognized program in cancer-related health services research by conducting innovative and high quality research in comparative effectiveness, health economics, quality of care, patient-centered outcomes, and decision analysis and by educating and mentoring future health services researchers.  Their objective are to build a multidisciplinary team of investigators with expertise across the spectrum of health services research; to foster collaboration among health services researchers within and outside of MD Anderson; to maintain population-based research databases for health services research; and to support and expand educational programs that focus on cancer-related health services research.

The is administered through the Office of the Vice President and engages graduate students as well as pre-doctoral and postdoctoral fellows from a wide variety of disciplines to provide focused training in risk characterization and cancer prevention research. The program has been continuously funded since 1992 by the National Institutes of Health.

Support for our research is provided in the form of grants and contracts from federal, pharmaceutical, foundational and philanthropic partners. Numerous philanthropic donors committed to a future free of cancer support the work of the division. Two recent gifts are especially notable. We were fortunate to receive a substantial, sustaining endowment from the Caroline Wiess Law Foundation. In 2008, Mr. and Mrs. Dan L. Duncan and their family gave a gift of $35 million to establish the Duncan Family Institute for Cancer Prevention and Risk Assessment. The Duncan family’s generous donation is the institution’s largest gift toward cancer prevention and its second-largest gift ever. The institute will further enable MD Anderson to become the world's premier center committed to cancer prevention research and practice with a specific goal of reducing the morbidity and mortality of cancer and its treatment. Additionally the gift will help train future generations of researchers and practitioners and foster a definitive resource for educating the public and health care professionals about state-of-the-art practices in cancer prevention.

Related Care Centers

Centers and Institutes

Behavioral Research Treatment Center

Duncan Family Institute

Center for Health Equity & Evaluation Research


Tobacco Treatment Program

ASPIRE (A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience)