The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has chosen University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center researcher and interim director Loïc Le Marchand as the recipient of the 2022 Distinguished Lectureship on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities. Le Marchand will present his award lecture during the opening session of the 15th AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved in Philadelphia on September 16. His lecture is titled “Translating Multiethnic Epidemiological Research into Innovative Interventions.”
This special AACR lectureship recognizes an investigator whose work has had, or may have a far-reaching impact on the causes, detection, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of cancer health disparities.
Le Marchand is associate director for Community Outreach and Engagement, and Cancer Disparities, and full member of the Population Sciences in the Pacific Program (Cancer Epidemiology) at the UH Cancer Center. Having built a research career dedicated to promoting the health of underserved racial and ethnic populations, Le Marchand is being honored for his significant contributions to advancing our understanding of the role of genetics, biomarkers and health behaviors in ethnic/racial cancer disparities.
Significant research findings
Le Marchand’s early research demonstrated that Japanese migrants to Hawaiʻi were particularly susceptible to the effect of a Westernized lifestyle, resulting in an increased colorectal cancer risk in such populations. His team determined that individuals of Japanese descent frequently carry genetic variants that allow them to more efficiently metabolize heterocyclic aromatic amines (chemicals formed when muscle meat is cooked using high-temperature methods) from smoking and consumption of well-done red meat into active carcinogenic compounds. This work was expanded to identify novel genetic risk variants for colorectal cancer in Japanese and African American patient populations through the use of genome-wide association studies.
Since 2012, Le Marchand has led the Multiethnic Cohort Study (MEC), a collaboration between the UH Cancer Center and the University of Southern California. The MEC is a uniquely valuable resource for investigating important genetic, behavioral and environmental risk factors and social determinants that impact cancer and health disparities. Since the study’s inception in 1993, hundreds of internal and external investigators have used MEC-generated data, contributing to more than 950 publications and more than 130 National Institutes of Health grants.
Le Marchand was one of the first to observe racial and ethnic differences in lung cancer risk despite similar smoking history. He also directed an NCI program project grant to investigate how differential fat distribution can impact cancer risk and found stark racial and ethnic differences, with the highest relative levels of abdominal visceral fat in Japanese Americans and the lowest levels in African Americans.
An active member of the AACR since 1995, he has served as a member of the Population Sciences Working Group, as senior editor of the AACR journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, and was a member of the journal’s editorial board. Le Marchand has been a peer reviewer for several AACR journals and was a session organizer for the AACR Annual Meeting 2014.
Among Le Marchand’s list of achievements include Scientist of the Year by the Honolulu Chapter of the Advancing Science in America Foundation, the UH Board of Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research, a place on Thomson Reuters’ “Highly Cited Researchers” and “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” lists, and the First Independent Research Support & Transition Award from the NCI. Le Marchand is also an elected member of the American Epidemiological Society.
Le Marchand earned his medical degree from the University of Rennes in France. He obtained his MPH in epidemiology and his PhD in epidemiology and biostatistics from UH Mānoa.