Consortium Scientists

Laurence Kolonel

Laurence Kolonel, MD, PhD

PI: Multi-Ethnic Cohort Study

University of Hawaii Cancer Center

Dr. Laurence Kolonel's research interests for many years have centered on understanding the striking variations in cancer incidence and survival that are observed among the several different ethnic populations in Hawai'i. This work began in the mid-1970's when he joined the newly formed epidemiology program at the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center. An underlying premise for the research program was that important clues to cancer etiology might emerge from epidemiologic studies in this unique environment.

In early studies of cancer risks among migrant populations, Dr. Kolonel and his colleagues showed that incidence rates in first generation migrants to Hawai'i from Japan and the U.S. mainland were often remarkably higher (or lower) than the prevailing rates in their place of origin. Moreover, these changes were progressive from the first to the second generation (born in Hawai'i). These findings added considerable weight to the notion that most cancers are environmentally determined. Accordingly, Dr. Kolonel and his group concentrated much of their subsequent research on the role of lifestyle variables in the etiology of cancer, with a particular emphasis on nutritional factors. Several early ecologic and case-control studies in this unique population-setting helped establish the importance of diet and nutrition in determining cancer risk.Despite the encouraging results of many of these studies, the research showed that even when major risk factors for cancer were known, they could not fully account for the observed differences in incidence among the several ethnic groups in Hawai'i. Furthermore, some of the changes in risk observed among migrants were much greater than would be expected from lifestyle alterations alone. Thus, to further their research on diet, nutrition and cancer, and to better explore some of the anomalous findings, in 1993-1996, Dr. Kolonel with several of his colleagues established a large multi-ethnic cohort for long-term follow-up. To enhance the value of this research resource, they included ethnic groups from both Hawai'i (Japanese-Americans, whites, and Native Hawaiian's) and California (African-Americans, and Latinos). The cohort includes more than 215,000 participants of both sexes, on whom extensive questionnaire data (including a detailed quantitative dietary history) were collected at baseline and on several subsequent occasions. In addition, biological specimens were obtained from approximately 70,000 cohort participants to form a unique biorepository of blood and urine samples. Most of Dr. Kolonel's current research utilizes this cohort resource. The work is multidisciplinary, and includes a substantial molecular epidemiology component.