AACR honors Doctor Chanita Hughes Halbert

October 16, 2018
Dr. Hughes-Halbert
Dr. Hughes-Halbert is the first woman and first African-American from South Carolina elected into the National Academy of Medicine. Photo by Emma Vought

Hollings Cancer Center researcher Chanita Hughes-Halbert, Ph.D., is the recipient of the 2018 AACR Distinguished Lecture on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities, funded by the Susan G. Komen organization, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) announced today.

The AACR Distinguished Lecture on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities 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.

Hughes-Halbert said she’s honored to have been chosen. “This important award brings attention to the research and scholarship that is being conducted to enhance cancer equity in racial and ethnic minorities and individuals from other medically underserved groups,” she said. "My topic, which will address the ways in which social and psychological factors contribute to disparities, can be used to promote effective behavior and clinical changes to promote equity."

Hughes-Halbert is the principal investigator and director of the Transdisciplinary Collaborative Center in Precision Medicine and Minority Men’s Health at Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). In addition, she is the associate dean of assessment, evaluation and quality improvement and a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at MUSC. She also holds the AT&T Distinguished Endowed Chair for Cancer Equity at Hollings Cancer Center at MUSC.

The AACR is recognizing Hughes-Halbert for her research aiming to identify sociocultural, psychological and behavioral determinants of cancer disparities and to translate this evidence into interventions to improve cancer outcomes in medically underserved populations. Within this overarching program, her research focuses on three converging lines of investigation that have high clinical and policy importance: enhancing the participation of minorities in cancer research, developing culturally tailored assessments and interventions to improve cancer outcomes in minorities, and developing a sustainable infrastructure for cancer prevention and control through community-based participatory research methods.

Notably, her research has defined the field of genetic counseling and testing for inherited breast cancer risk in African-American women, and she was the first to examine acceptance rates and outcomes of genetic counseling and testing for BRCA1/2 mutations among African-American women. Her research in genetic counseling and testing provided a model of culturally tailored strategies for cancer prevention and control among racial minorities..

More recently, Hughes-Halbert has conducted translational research to understand the complex ways in which sociocultural, psychological, behavioral, genetic and clinical factors interact to produce racial and ethnic disparities in health care and disease outcomes among minority men. Her evolving research in this area has demonstrated that a willingness to participate in precision medicine studies is limited among African- Americans despite having positive expectations about the benefits of personalized medicine.

Hughes-Halbert is a past chair of the AACR Minorities in Cancer Research Council and currently serves on the editorial boards of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention and Cancer Prevention Research, two scientific journals of the AACR. She has been a member of board of scientific advisors at the National Cancer Institute and the National Advisory Council for the Human Genome Research.  The National Academy of Medicine elected her to its ranks in 2017, making her the first investigator and woman in South Carolina to earn this distinction. She received a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University and both a master’s degree and doctorate in personality psychology from Howard University.

The AACR will honor Hughes-Halbert during the 11th AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved Nov. 2 through 5, in New Orleans. She will deliver her award lecture, “Toward Understanding Psychosocial and Behavioral Issues in Cancer Health Disparities,” on Friday, Nov. 2.

Portions of above release used with permission of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).

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