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NIH Announces New Funding for Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Centers

  • Posted: October 13, 2004

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced new funding for the Transdisciplinary Tobacco Use Research Centers (TTURC) initiative, which originally awarded grants to seven research centers in 1999. This new investment, totaling almost $12 million, will be funded over the next five years by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The new group of centers and principal investigators includes:

  • Brown University and The Miriam Hospital, Raymond Niaura, Ph.D.
  • University of Wisconsin, Timothy B. Baker, Ph.D.
  • Roswell Park Cancer Institute, K. Michael Cummings, Ph.D., MPH
  • University of Minnesota, Dorothy K. Hatsukami, Ph.D.
  • University of Southern California, C. Anderson Johnson, Ph.D.
  • University of Pennsylvania, Caryn E. Lerman, Ph.D.
  • Yale University, Stephanie S. O'Malley, Ph.D.

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

"Tobacco control is one of my top five prevention priorities, and I am pleased that three institutes of NIH are supporting research to address the leading cause of preventable death in the United States," said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.

NCI Director Andrew von Eschenbach said, "Our support for TTURC reflects recognition of the detrimental public health impact of tobacco use and the need for integrative transdisciplinary research across basic and applied studies." NCI co-funds all seven centers and has invested $7 million in the 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 whole body to thousands of compounds in tobacco smoke," said NIDA Director 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 co-funds three of the centers and has invested $3 million in the initiative.

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

People who smoke are influenced by multiple interconnected factors, including behavioral, social, environmental, psychological, genetic, and biologic factors. As evidenced 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 are described below.

  • 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. A collaboration between the UCI and University of Southern California TTURCs revealed, however, that such factors work differently in White and Asian youth. For example, hostility and depression are associated with smoking in White but not Asian youth; Asian youth are more likely to smoke in social situations.
  • Results from Brown University show that offspring of mothers who smoked a pack or more of cigarettes per day during pregnancy had a higher risk for nicotine dependence compared to children whose mothers did not smoke during pregnancy.
  • Research and collaboration at the Yale TTURC led to the development of a new radiotracer (a drug tagged with radioactivity that allows researchers to take pictures of where nicotine acts in the brain) 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.

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For more information about the TTURC initiative, visit http://cancercontrol.cancer.gov/tcrb/tturc.