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October 5, 2004 • Volume 1 / Number 38 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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Special ReportSpecial Report

Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Centers Awarded
New Funding

The National Cancer Advisory Board recently approved new funding for NCI's Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Center (TTURC) collaborative initiative, which awarded grants to seven research centers in 1999. The new investment, totaling almost $12 million, will be funded over the next 5 years by NCI, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). The new group of centers and principal investigators includes: Brown University and the Miriam Hospital, Dr. Raymond Niaura; University of Wisconsin, Dr. Timothy B. Baker; Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Dr. K. Michael Cummings; University of Minnesota, Dr. Dorothy K. Hatsukami; University of Southern California, Dr. C. Anderson Johnson; University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Caryn E. Lerman; and Yale University, Dr. Stephanie S. O'Malley.

The seven new centers will study a range of topics, including genetic and psychosocial factors that influence tobacco use and addiction; effective smoking cessation treatments; molecules or genes that could affect tobacco exposure and disease risk; and the public health impact of regional and national tobacco control policies.

NCI Director Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach said, "Our support for TTURCs reflects recognition of the detrimental public health impact of tobacco use and the need for integrative transdisciplinary research." NCI cofunds all seven centers and has invested more than $7 million in the new initiative. Lung cancer, overwhelmingly caused by tobacco use, is the leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

"We know that smoking is highly addictive and exposes the body to thousands of compounds in tobacco smoke," said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow. "NIDA is committed to funding research to reduce the adverse health, economic, and social consequences of all drugs of abuse, including nicotine, to individuals, families, and communities." NIDA cofunds three of the centers and has invested more than $3 million in the new initiative.

"Patterns of co-occurring alcohol and tobacco use and dependence warrant greater scrutiny," said NIAAA Director Dr. Ting-Kai Li. "We are pleased to be a new cofunder of this important research into the shared genetic and neurobiological vulnerabilities to both forms of dependence, as well as the environmental factors that influence use of these drugs." NIAAA has invested more than $1.5 million in the TTURC initiative.

People who smoke are influenced by behavioral, social, environmental, psychological, genetic, and biologic factors, many of which are interconnected. As shown by the diversity of collaborations and research outcomes since 1999, the TTURC initiative spans multiple perspectives and is leading to new strategies for addressing tobacco control. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has partnered with the original grantees to help disseminate research results. Highlights of important scientific findings from the original TTURC grants include:

  • Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania this year published the first study to identify specific genes that may influence adolescent smoking progression in conjunction with psychological factors.
  • Investigators at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) found that hostile, anxious, and depressed teens are more likely to smoke. But, a collaboration between the UCI and University of Southern California TTURCs revealed that such factors work differently in white and Asian youths: Hostility and depression are associated with smoking in white youths, but not Asian youths, who are more likely to smoke in social situations.
  • Results from Brown University show that children of mothers who smoked a pack or more of cigarettes per day during pregnancy had a higher risk for nicotine dependence compared with children whose mothers did not smoke during pregnancy.
  • Research at the Yale TTURC led to the development of a new radiotracer that will not only examine the effects of tobacco smoking on the brain, but also will allow researchers to explore the role of the nicotinic system in Alzheimer's disease, alcoholism, major depression, and schizophrenia.

For more information about TTURCs, visit