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International cancer experts got a taste of North Carolina and the strides UNC cancer researchers have made in recent years during the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network (CPCRN) meeting in Chapel Hill last week.

The CPCRN is a national network of academic, public health, and community partners who work together to reduce the burden of cancer, especially among those disproportionately affected.  The network includes 163 members from 10 universities across the country, all of which are part of the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The group meets twice a year, but the fall meeting is the largest and includes principal investigators, research staff and community partners. This year’s meeting kicks off the second 5-year cycle of the CPCRN.

“We are really excited to be able to launch the beginning of this phase of the network in Chapel Hill,” said Kurt Ribisl, associate professor of health behavior and health education at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and the principal investigator of the coordinating center for the CPCRN. “We are getting great feedback about the breadth of work and collaborative environment at UNC.”

UNC-Chapel Hill is also a member of the CPCRN. Cathy Melvin, a research associate professor in the department of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, leads the member project, called the Comprehensive Cancer Control Collaborative of North Carolina (4CNC). Both projects are based at the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP).

The 4CNC research team has worked to redesign a common test for colorectal cancer and to make comprehensive colorectal cancer screening available to low-income North Carolinians, and will continue their focus on colorectal cancer in the next phase of the project. Ribisl said the entire network is focused on increasing colorectal cancer screening in this phase of the research, because only 40-50% of Americans are screened each year. By comparison, he said approximately 80-90% of women are screened for breast cancer.

About 60 people attended the 3-day meeting of the CPCRN, which began on October 17th. This was the first time the larger meeting washeld in Chapel Hill, giving network members a chance to see the work being done by 4CNC and other UNC cancer researchers. The meetings began with a tour of the new NC Cancer Hospital and included a research exposition and reception in the Michael Hooker Atrium at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health on October 19th.

The reception had more than 100 attendees and featured a number of projects affiliated with HPDP, including Seeds of HOPE, HOPE Accounts for Women, NC WAY to Health, Linking Local Sustainable Agriculture and Health and the Carolina Community Network.

“For me, having this meeting in Chapel Hill gives us the chance to show people what we’re doing and to hear from world-class cancer researchers,” said Melvin, who added that even within the UNC community, it is rare to have the opportunity for cancer researchers to all come together. “It is impressive and inspiring to see all these projects in one place.”

Deborah Bush, project director for the CPCRN coordinating center, planned the network meeting and Alexis Moore, project director for 4CNC, planned the reception. Both utilized the Tar Heel Guide to Restaurants and Caterers Using Local Foods, developed by HPDP researchers, to identify local caterers for the event. To see pictures from the reception, click the link below.

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