Skip to Content

The Cancer Prevention and Control Program

  • Cooking supplies on a counter

Diet and Diet Assessment

Along with our unique healthy cooking program for the community, Columbia's Cooking!, and our core resource, the Diet Assessment Research Unit, we also perform substantial research into the effects of diet on health effects, including inflammation and cancer.

Ongoing and Completed Studies

Co-Principal Investigators: Heather Brandt and James Hébert

Funding Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health

Study Period: 5/1/143/31/18

This dissemination and implementation research is based on our previous efficacious intervention trial that which focused on diet, physical activity and stress reduction in collaboration with the African-American (AA) faith community to reduce inflammation (the HEALS intervention). Extraordinary success in engaging the AA faith and greater AA community through community-based participatory research now allows us to disseminate and implement this intervention. We will ensure that this research contributes to achieving our overall goal of reducing health disparities among AAs through the following specific aims: (1) disseminate and implement the successful HEALS intervention in the AA faith community; (2) evaluate and monitor the dissemination process for adoption, recruitment, retention and fidelity to the HEALS intervention; (3) conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis of intervention dissemination and implementation to reduce health disparities in parameters associated with inflammation; and (4) enhance the capacity of the target community to sustain the delivery of the evidence-based intervention and engage in future research to address health disparities through cultivation of a network of active church and community educators and leadership development activities.

Principal Investigator: Susan Steck

Funding Source: American Institute for Cancer Research

Study Period: 1/1/1512/31/16

Inflammation is associated with increased cancer risk, and foods can be categorized as pro- or anti-inflammatory. Previously, our group developed a dietary inflammatory index (DII) to assess the potential for different dietary patterns to promote inflammation. We found that a high score on the DII was linked with increased risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer and with poor metabolic health. This new AICR-funded research will evaluate whether consuming a more pro-inflammatory diet after cancer diagnosis is associated with poorer prognosis or reduced survival time. The study will use data from The Women’s Health Initiative, a large prospective study of women in the United States in which dietary intake was assessed both before and after cancer diagnosis, and thus this is a unique dataset with which to examine our hypotheses.

Co-Principal Investigators: Michael Wirth and Nitin Shivappa

Funding Source: National Institutes of Health

Study Period: 9/4/14–3/31/2017

The Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII) is a tool that will form the basis of counseling/instructional systems aimed at helping patients and their providers to control chronic, systemic inflammation by improving diet. Phase I will focus on developing the reporting systems (i.e., mobile/web applications) used by the patient. Phase II will build upon Phase I which includes an intervention trial based on DII response-associated recommendations aimed at reducing chronic inflammation.

Principal Investigator: Susan Steck

Funding Source: USA Medical Acquisition Activity, US Department of Defense

Study Period: 3/30/119/29/15

The overall goal of the study is to examine whether altered vitamin D status (as measured by serum metabolites and by functional polymorphisms with genes related to vitamin D transport, metabolism and activity) is associated with increased risk of aggressive prostate cancer and may explain some of the racial disparity seen in aggressive prostate cancer. With large representation of African Americans in this investigation, the proposed research has tremendous potential to provide insights into a chronically underserved population carrying an unequal burden of disease.

Principal Investigator: James Hébert; Co-Investigator and Community Outreach Core Leader: Heather Brandt; Co-Investigator and Research Core Leader: Swann Adams; Co-Investigator and Training Core Co-Leader: Cheryl A Armstead; Co-Investigator and Pilot Project Leader: Daniela B Friedman

Funding Source: National Cancer Institute

Study Period: 7/106/15

The overall goal is to continue to address cancer disparities through research, education and training. The focus of the SCCDCN-II is on addressing cancer disparities among African Americans in South Carolina through partnerships with community-based organizations, specifically the State Baptist Young Woman’s Auxiliary of the Woman’s Baptist Education and Missionary Convention.

Co-Principal Investigator: James Hébert; Co-Investigator: Cheryl A Armstead

Funding Source: National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, National Institutes of Health

Study Period: 8/1/083/31/15

The overall goal of this project is to reduce colon cancer-related health disparities, by conducting (specific aims): 1) a faith-based community-designed, screening to identify individuals having colon polyps; 2) a case-control study designed collaboratively by the faith-based community and USC scientists to identify factors associated with the presence of polyps; and 3) a study to test the effectiveness of a community-designed, family-based dietary and physical activity intervention aimed at modifying levels of inflammatory markers associated with colon cancer risk.

Principal Investigator: Susan Steck

Funding Source: Prevent Cancer Foundation

Study Period: 2/15/132/14/15

Inflammation is a normal biologic process that is necessary for healing wounds and combating infection. Unlike the normal inflammatory response, chronic inflammation appears to play a role in a number of chronic diseases, including cancer. We will examine the association between diet and inflammation with the use of a new dietary inflammation index (DII) in research on breast and colorectal cancers. The project may help to identify novel intervention strategies for cancer prevention.

Principal Investigator: Jim Burch

Funding Source: University of South Carolina Office of Research and Economic Development

Study Period: 7/1/099/1/13

The specific aims were to: 1) genotype 500 breast cancer cases and controls for 19 candidate single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with inflammation, carcinogen metabolism, and clock genes (cell cycle/DNA repair pathways); and 2) perform a case-control analysis to test the hypothesis that candidate SNPs are associated with increased breast cancer risk.

Co-Principal Investigators: Susan Steck and Jim Burch

Funding Source: National Cancer Institute

Study Period: 5/1/084/30/12

This case-control study examined whether circadian disruption or dietary factors influence methylation of specific cancer-related genes, including clock genes, among individuals with adenomatous polyps and controls.

Principal Investigator: Heather Brandt

Funding Source: University of South Carolina Science and Health Communication Research Group

Study Period: 3/1/112/29/12

Health communication strategies encompassing the use of media can have a profound influence on the success of public health initiatives. There has been increased use of documentary films, theater, and the arts to inform and motivate high-risk communities and to measure changes in health behavior and health outcome. These efforts have resulted in increased awareness and knowledge, improved communication about cancer with family and friends, intention to change behaviors, and behavior change. This documentary film features the process of forming and implementing the Right Choice, Health Start (RCHS) Farmers Market intervention. To produce the documentary film, the coalition model of filmmaking, consistent with a CBPR approach, was used. Interactive filming, producing and editing strategies were used to produce the final version. The result was an 18-minute documentary film that captured the complexities of CBPR specifically applied to implementing an innovative farmers market. The film served as a form of process evaluation of the implementation of the farmers market and as a tool to promote and celebrate the farmers market in the community.


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.