UNC scientists awarded grant to study causes of pediatric cancer

Andrew Olshan, Ph.D., professor and chair of the epidemiology department in the Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been awarded a grant worth nearly $2.9 million from the National Cancer Institute to study the causes of neuroblastoma.

Olshan is also the leader of the cancer epidemiology program of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and research professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery in the UNC School of Medicine.

The most common cancer in babies, neuroblastoma develops from nerve cells found in several areas of the body and most commonly affects children aged 5 or younger.

The five-year study will investigate the disease’s causes, with a focus on mothers’ diets and supplemental vitamin intake during pregnancy. Previous studies have suggested that vitamin use may reduce the risk of this cancer by 40 percent. The new research will also examine genetic factors in parents and children that may influence vitamin metabolism and risk of cancer. Study participants will include neuroblastoma patients diagnosed at hospitals participating in the Children’s Oncology Group, a North American pediatric clinical trials group.

Olshan’s co-investigators in the public health school include Anna Maria Siega-Riz, Ph.D., associate professor in the departments of epidemiology and nutrition, and Fei Zou, Ph.D., associate professor of biostatistics.

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