RCMI Core Labs & Research Projects



Center for Health Disparities Research Center
Sandra Suther, Ph.D.
Community Outreach Core Leader
Cynthia Seaborn, DrPH
Community Outreach Co-Core Leader

The goal of the Community Engagement Core is to develop, enhance, and strengthen relationships and partnerships with our community-based organizations in the Gadsden and Leon County African American communities to create a sustainable research and outreach environment for eliminating cancer disparities. The aims are to 1) Establish and strengthen long-term relationships with community partners to reduce breast, lung, and colorectal cancer disparities; 2) Promote increased participation in research studies and clinical trials by community members; 3) Disseminate findings from the research projects by increasing interaction between the FAMU RCMI scientists and the community and; 4) Evaluate CEC education materials and activities.


Eunsook Lee, Ph.D.
Investigator Development Core Leader

The goal of the Investigator Development Program is to support early-career investigators in the basic and behavioral sciences in their quest to transition to Independent-Investigators able to obtain extramural mainstream funding. The IDC will foster competitive research in cancer health disparities' behavioral, molecular, and cellular basis. IDC will provide funding through the Pilot Project Program (PPP) to support senior research associates and junior faculty, with innovative projects ranging from $30,000 to 50,000 for each project.  The process for obtaining PPP awards involves announcing accepting PHS-398 applications, committee review by the IDC leader, RCMI Executive Committee, IAC, and EAC. Criteria for evaluation include scientific novelty, quality, technical merit, and significance: relevance to health disparities, experience and qualifications of the applicant, and record of accomplishments. The initial local evaluations of each project will be followed by NIH-style evaluations and scoring of the proposed work by three external evaluators (R01 scientists or equivalent levels) with similar research interests to the proposed project. Awardees will provide post-award progress reports that will be reviewed and evaluated through the Center Evaluation Program for the research accomplishments of each awardee's research objectives.  



The principal focus of the research is to develop polyisoprenylated cysteinyl amide inhibitors (PCAIs) as a novel class of targeted therapies to address the void of effective drugs for the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) that afflicts a significantly higher proportion of African Americans. Hyperactivities of polyisoprenylated pathway proteins and their modulating factors are currently the principal drivers of the most difficult-to-treat cancers such as TNBC. In fact, Cdc42 and EGFR/HER1 are overexpressed in 95% and 91% of breast cancers, respectively. RASA1 loss-of-function mutations in 61% and 72% of breast cancers and TNBC, respectively, are functionally equivalent to RAS’s hyperactivity, given its role as a Ras-GTPase.  Developing effective drugs for cancers with Ras and related proteins hyperactivity has been very challenging. There are no effective therapies for cancers with these aberrations despite numerous efforts. This research adopts a hitherto unexplored approach to address this problem using an entirely novel class of compounds targeting polyisoprenylated protein metabolism and function. This is based on previous studies showing that polyisoprenylation pathway modifications are essential for polyisoprenylated protein control on cell proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis, and cytoskeletal organization and our preliminary results showing the effectiveness of the PCAIs at blocking cancer cell growth, 3D spheroid invasion, apoptosis, angiogenesis, and G-protein depletion. Consequently, the research addresses the hypothesis that PCAIs disrupt signaling pathways that promote cancer cell proliferation and tumor growth and the cell migration and invasion that promote metastatic TNBC. The research involves (1) the design and organic synthesis of the PCAIs analogs, (2) determination of the PCAI’s effectiveness and mechanisms of action against breast cancer cell lines and patient-derived organoids, and (3) effectiveness of the PCAIs against xenograft tumors in mice.


John S. Luque, Ph.D., MPH, Fellow SfAA 
Principal Investigator
Professor, Institute of Public Health

Test Up Now Education Program (TUNE-UP) - Colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence and mortality continue to decrease in the overall U.S. population. However, African Americans continue to experience persistent CRC health disparities compared to other racial/ethnic groups, which is partly attributable to lower CRC screening participation by African Americans. The TUNE-UP study is investigating whether a community health advisor (CHA) educational intervention can increase stool-based colorectal cancer screening among African Americans 45-64 years of age compared to a “usual care” approach. The primary study aim is to evaluate the effectiveness of a CHA intervention for increasing CRC screening among African Americans who are not up to date with screening. Study participants assigned to the intervention group receive an educational brochure and in-person CRC screening presentation from the CHA with follow-up calls and texts, while the “usual care” group receives only the educational brochure. All study participants receive a stool-based CRC screening kit from their community health center (Bond Community Health Center or Neighborhood Medical Center) which they complete at home and mail-in for analysis. The potential impact of this study will be the implementation and dissemination of an intervention to increase CRC screening among African Americans that is low-cost, effective, and easily implemented. Study recruitment is ongoing through 2023.

View the TUNE-UP participation flyer