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Fifty-three cancer researchers from eight different academic institutions around the country and their federal agency partners met in Chapel Hill on January 27 and 28 to launch the next five years of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network (CPCRN). In September 2019, the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill $3.375 million over the next five years to continue serving as the CPCRN coordinating center as well as to continue participating in the network as one of its eight collaborating centers.

Group photo of CPCRN researchers in front of brick building
CPCRN researchers at the Jan. 27-28 kickoff meeting in Chapel Hill, N.C.

For the 2019-2024 cycle of funding, two new collaborating centers have joined CPCRN and six centers will rejoin or continue to participate in the network with renewed funding. The centers and their principal investigators are as follows:

  • Emory University: Cam Escoffery, PhD
  • University of Iowa: Natoshia Askelson, PhD
  • New York University-City University of New York : Chau Trinh-Shevrin, DrPH
  • University of Arizona: Cynthia Thomson, PhD
  • University of South Carolina at Columbia: Daniela Friedman, PhD and James R Hébert, ScD
  • Colorado School of Public Health: Betsy Risendal, PhD
  • University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill: Jennifer Leeman, DrPH, MDiv and Alison Brenner, PhD
  • University of Washington: Peggy Hannon, PhD and Linda Ko, PhD
  • CPCRN Coordinating Center: Stephanie Wheeler, PhD

Initiated in 2002, CPCRN is the largest and longest-standing thematic research network of the Prevention Research Center (PRC) program, the CDC’s flagship program for preventing and controlling chronic diseases. Eight PRCs from around the country participate in CPCRN, including UNC-Chapel Hill’s PRC, the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, which also hosts the coordinating center. Researchers from each PRC collaborate within and across their centers to produce research related to the implementation of evidence-based approaches to reduce the burden of cancer, especially in disproportionately affected populations. Since 2004, CPCRN members have produced 1,796 publications and obtained over $669 million in grant funding.

“We are delighted to be in our 16th year of continuous funding as the Coordinating Center for the CDC Prevention Research Centers’ largest thematic research network,” said Stephanie Wheeler, the principal investigator for the CPCRN Coordinating Center. “CPCRN has made a profound impact on the science and practice of cancer prevention and control research translation over the years, and we are excited about the new and returning centers that are part of the network in this current cycle.”

Over the next five years, CPCRN researchers will contribute to cross-center projects to extend research findings across the cancer control continuum into practice. At this week’s meeting, researchers developed consensus around potential thematic areas for the projects, to be coordinated by cross-center workgroups. The proposed areas of focus include cancer survivorship; cancer among rural populations; organization theory in implementation science; applied systems science; a CPCRN scholars trainee program; implementation, quality improvement, and technical assistance; health behaviors; health equity and social determinants of health; and mental health and well-being.

Each center will also complete a five-year core center project that will study the implementation of cancer control interventions directed at one or more levels of the health care context, which may include the patient, a health system, a community, or a wider political or economic context that impacts health outcomes.

For its core project, UNC-Chapel Hill’s collaborating center will study a pilot program to distribute colorectal cancer screening tests in rural areas through pharmacies. People living in rural areas are less likely to be screened for colorectal cancer than urban residents, but distribution of fecal immunochemical test (FIT) kits through pharmacies may improve rural screening rates. In North Carolina, pharmacies are more equally distributed across the state than primary care facilities, and communities with limited access to primary care may have one or more pharmacy which could distribute FIT kits.

“As a CPCRN center, we have the opportunity to develop strategies to prevent and control cancer in North Carolina” said Jennifer Leeman, principal investigator for the UNC-Chapel Hill collaborating center. “Through our partnerships with the other network centers, we also are able to advance the science of what works across diverse populations and settings nationwide.”

To better understand how a pharmacy-based distribution program could work, researchers will interview primary care providers, pharmacy staff, and patients, as well as administer a national survey to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. After using this information to develop a FIT kit distribution program, they will conduct a small pilot of the program in up to five pharmacies in North Carolina.

“CPCRN collaborating centers are geographically distributed all over the US and work together, leveraging strengths in community-based partnerships, implementation science and population health, to tackle persistent problems in cancer prevention and control and advance health equity,” said Alice Ammerman, director for the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, UNC-Chapel Hill’s PRC. “We are proud to host the Coordinating Center at the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and to continue the excellent work of our own collaborating center.”


The Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network (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. Its members conduct community-based participatory cancer research across its eight network centers, crossing academic affiliations and geographic boundaries. The CPCRN is a thematic research network of the Prevention Research Centers (PRCs), which are CDC’s flagship program for preventing and controlling chronic diseases.

The Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network is supported by Cooperative Agreement Number (U48 DP006400) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The findings and conclusions are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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