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Our Scientists

Did you know?

  • Eighteen scientists and their teams conduct cutting-edge research using large data-sets to:
    • understand the causes of cancer
    • find ways to prevent it or detect it early
    • improve outcomes for cancer survivors 
  • Established in 1974 as the Northern California Cancer Program, the organization later became known as the Northern California Cancer Center. The name was changed again in 2010 when it became the Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC), which reflects the organization's broader scope and demonstrates its large scale impact of preventing cancer before it starts.
  • Through its collaborative approach, CPIC also serves as an asset to the nation’s leading cancer fighting organizations, including the National Cancer Institute, and to scientists worldwide, educators, patients, and clinicians, and is affiliated with the Stanford Cancer Institute.
  • Our scientists are frequent contributors to major scientific journals, and often present their findings at important cancer-related conferences. CPIC research has been covered by numerous local, national and international media outlets, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.
  • CPIC operates the Greater Bay Area Cancer Registry as part of the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program and the California Cancer Registry. As required by law, the registry gathers data from hospitals and doctors on all cancers diagnosed and treated in nine Bay Area counties. This information is used to produce cancer statistics and as a platform for research to understand cancer occurrences and survival. Our registry regularly earns Gold Standard Certification by the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries.
  • Our Community Education team provides important information to cancer survivors, their families, health and medical professionals and others through conferences, publications and websites on many cancer-related topics including employment, patient advocacy, care giving, specific cancers, treatments and breakthroughs.
  • CPIC was first to report on the alarmingly high and increasing rates of breast cancer in the Bay Area and Marin County in the 1990s. In subsequent studies, CPIC found that when women stopped taking hormone replacement therapy, breast cancer rates declined immediately and dramatically. This showed that hormone therapy was a major contributor to the high rates previously reported and identified one clear path to breast cancer prevention.
  • CPIC described increased occurrence of melanoma in young women in California, particularly in high socioeconomic areas, implicating use of tanning beds as one cause. This finding led to passage of the first statewide legislation to ban minors from using tanning beds, which should ultimately reduce occurrences of deadly melanoma in young persons.
  • CPIC found that risk of breast cancer was lower for women engaging in more physical activity, such as walking and biking, doing household chores and yard work, and being active on the job. This shows a simple and practical way women can help prevent breast cancer from occurring.
  • CPIC studies have shown that women exposed to second-hand tobacco smoke have a higher risk of lung cancer even if they don't smoke, and that exposure to household smoke increases their risk of breast cancer over and above the risk they incur from smoking themselves. These findings have been important in leading to anti-smoking legislation.
  • CPIC assessed whether sun exposure, which is the main source of vitamin D, is related to prostate cancer risk. Using the difference in skin color measured on the forehead and upper underarm as an indicator of sun exposure, the study found that prostate cancer risk was reduced by 50% in men with a high sun exposure index, with an even higher reduction in risk noted in men with certain alterations in the vitamin D receptor gene.
  • CPIC was the first to show that breast cancer survival is not uniform across women of different Asian ethnicities, irrespective of how advanced the cancer was when diagnosed. In California, Korean, South Asian and Vietnamese women had the poorest survival after breast cancer, pointing to the need in these communities for better screening and/or breast cancer treatment.
  • CPIC demonstrated that the rates of both early and more advanced melanomas were rising in all populations in California. This disturbing finding signals a true and alarming epidemic of this deadly cancer, and it has been cited over 245 times in the medical literature since 2009 because it identifies a major public health problem.
  • CPIC showed that survival after follicular lymphoma, a common form of this cancer, is lower in poorer communities than in more affluent communities. This demonstrates population disparities in cancer treatment and shows a need in poorer communities for more access to skilled lymphoma care, including access to new successful drug treatments.
  • CPIC found that California nail salons had higher than expected levels of carcinogens and other banned substances in the air, identifying the need for better standards and the importance of clarifying whether such exposures lead to cancer and other undesirable health outcomes.
  • CPIC used two approaches to learn how best to help Vietnamese communities in California receive lifesaving colorectal cancer screening: one approach involved lay health workers directly educating the community on the importance of screening, and the other involved advertising about colorectal cancer screening. CPIC found that the use of lay health workers worked best to improve the screening rate, proving that organized community involvement improves colorectal screening practices among Vietnamese-Americans in California.
  • CPIC was the first to show definitively that among nonsmokers, women were more likely than men to have lung cancer. Until this paper, there were no hard data about the incidence of lung cancer in nonsmokers. This study has been cited extensively as motivation for other research to understand the reasons why.
  • CPIC was the first to study the level of BRCA1 mutations (genetic changes responsible for increased risk of breast cancer) in nonwhite women. This work found that young African American and Hispanic women with breast cancer had a particularly high prevalence of BRCA1 mutations, and signaled the importance to these communities and their doctors of screening for this mutation when indicated.

Thu Quach, Ph.D., M.P.H.

E-mail Thu.Quach@cpic.org
Research Scientist II, Cancer Prevention Institute of California
Consulting Assistant Professor, Division of Epidemiology, Department of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University School of Medicine
Member, Stanford Cancer Institute
Research Director, Asian Health Services


Research Interests

  • Environmental and occupational risk factors on health
  • Disproportionate burden of environmental toxins in communities and its impacts on their health
  • Asian American health and health disparities
  • Community-based participatory research approaches to addressing health disparities
  • Practice-based and community-based interventions
  • Community health centers and patient-centered medical home
  • Healthcare risk adjustment and social determinants of health

Research Programs and Studies

Research Publications

Quach T, Varshavsky J, Von Behren J, Garcia E, Tong M, Nguyen T, Tran A, Gunier R, Reynolds P. Reducing Chemical Exposures in Nail Salons through Owner and Worker Trainings: An Exploratory Intervention Study. Am J Indus Med 2013; 56:806–17.

Quach T, Nuru-Jeter A, Morris P, Allen L, Shema S, Winters J.K., Le G, Gomez SL. Experiences and perceptions of discrimination among a multi-ethnic sample of breast cancer patients in the San Francisco Bay Area. Am J Public Health 2012; 102(5):1027-34.

Quach T, Gunier R, Tran A, Von Behren J, Doan-Billings PA, Nguyen D, Okahara L, Lui B, Nguyen M, Huynh J, Reynolds P. Characterizing workplace exposures in Vietnamese women working in California nail salons. Am J Public Health 2011;101 Suppl 1:S271-6.

Gomez SL, Quach T, Horn-Ross PL, Pham JT, Cockburn M, Chang ET, Keegan THM, Clarke CA. Hidden disparities: breast cancer occurrence among Asian women by immigrant status. Am J Public Health 2010; 100 Suppl 1:S125-31.

Quach T, Doan-Billing PA, Layefsky M, Nelson D, Nguyen KD, Okahara L, Tran AN, Von Behren J, Reynolds P. Cancer incidence in female cosmetologists and manicurists in California, 1988-2005. Am J Epidemiol 2010; 172(6):691-9.

Education

INSTITUTION AND LOCATION DEGREE, YEAR FIELD OF STUDY

University of California, Berkeley

B.A., 1997

Integrative Biology

University of California, Los Angeles

M.P.H., 2000

Epidemiology

University of California, Los Angeles

Ph.D., 2009

Epidemiology

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