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Loïc Le Marchand, MD, PhD, MPH, Awarded with 2022 AACR Distinguished Lectureship on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities

PHILADELPHIA – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has announced Loïc Le Marchand, MD, PhD, MPH, as the recipient of the 2022 AACR 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 Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. His lecture is titled “Translating Multiethnic Epidemiological Research into Innovative Interventions.”

This special AACR lectureship recognizes an investigator whose novel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the etiology, 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 University of Hawaii Cancer Center (UHCC). 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. His versatile and collaborative approaches exemplify how classic observational studies, in-depth and innovative biomarker investigations, and randomized interventions may be integrated to reduce cancer and health disparities.

Le Marchand’s early research demonstrated that Japanese migrants to Hawaii were particularly susceptible to the effect of a Westernized lifestyle, resulting in altered colorectal cancer risk in such populations. Through a series of studies, his team determined that individuals of Japanese descent frequently carry genetic variants that allow them to more efficiently metabolize heterocyclic aromatic amines from smoking and consumption of well-done red meat into carcinogenic compounds. This work was expanded to identify novel genetic risk variants for colorectal cancer in Japanese and Black patient populations through the use of genome-wide association studies (GWAS).

Since 2012, Le Marchand has led the Multiethnic Cohort Study (MEC), a collaboration between the UHCC 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, countless internal and external investigators have used MEC-generated data, contributing to more than 950 publications and over 130 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants.

Le Marchand was one of the first to observe racial and ethnic differences in lung cancer risk despite similar smoking history. Using data from a population-based case-control study in Hawaii and from the MEC, he discovered that after accounting for smoking history, African Americans and Native Hawaiians are at higher risk of developing lung cancer compared to Whites, Japanese Americans, and Latinos/Hispanics. Through biomarker screening studies, he has also shown that higher lung cancer risk in African Americans may be partly explained by their higher smoking intensity and associated uptake of lung carcinogens. Conversely, decreased lung cancer risk in Japanese Americans is partially attributable to impaired nicotine metabolism, likely resulting in reduced nicotine cravings and in turn, decreased cigarette usage and smoking intensity. This work has informed discussions on whether lung cancer screening guidelines have equitable eligibility criteria across U.S. populations.

For over 35 years, Le Marchand has led epidemiologic investigations with continuous support from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). He directed an NCI Program Project Grant to investigate how differential fat distribution can impact cancer risk and found stark racial and ethnic differences in ectopic fat distribution, with the highest relative levels of abdominal visceral fat in Japanese Americans and the lowest levels in African Americans. His team later demonstrated that a predicted score for visceral fat was associated with increased breast cancer risk, independent of body mass index and other risk factors. Resulting from these studies, Le Marchand designed a dietary intervention with intermittent energy restriction combined with a Mediterranean diet to facilitate decreases in visceral adiposity among adults in high-risk racial and ethnic groups.

Le Marchand has been a member of the AACR since 1995. He has been a member of the AACR’s Population Sciences Working Group (formerly known as the Molecular Epidemiology Working Group) since 2019 and was chair of the group’s nominating committee in 2010 and 2016. Le Marchand has served as senior editor of the AACR journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention since 2011 and was previously a member of the journal’s editorial board (2003-2011). Since 1987, Le Marchand has been a peer reviewer for several AACR journals including Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research, and Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention. He was also a session organizer for the AACR Annual Meeting 2014.

Le Marchand has been awarded Scientist of the Year by the Honolulu Chapter of the Advancing Science in America Foundation (2020), the Board of Regents’ Medal for Excellence in Research from the University of Hawaii (2016), a place on Thomson Reuters’ “Highly Cited Researchers” list (2015-2017) and “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” list (2015-2016), the inaugural Jeremy Jass Lectureship from the Collaborative Group of the Americas on Inherited Gastrointestinal Cancer (2009), the Visiting Scientist Award from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (1999-2000), and the First Independent Research Support & Transition Award from the NCI (1987). 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 the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.

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