UF researcher receives NCI grant to study role of menthol cigarette smoking in lung cancer risk

A University of Florida early-stage investigator has received a $98,637 two-year grant from the National Cancer Institute to conduct a metabolomics study of menthol cigarette smoking and lung cancer risk, especially among African American men, who have the highest burden of lung cancer.

Alex Yoon, Ph.D.

The research team, led by Alex Yoon, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of surgery in the UF College of Medicine, will identify menthol cigarette smoking-related blood metabolites and evaluate their associations with lung cancer risk. The team will use prediagnostic blood samples, rich epidemiological data and recently generated metabolomics data from the Southern Community Cohort Study.

Menthol cigarette smoking appears as the most distinct feature of African American smokers, leading to the team’s hypothesis that menthol cigarette smoking may contribute to a higher burden of lung cancer among African Americans. However, up-to-date epidemiological evidence on menthol cigarette smoking and lung cancer has not reached a conclusion on whether menthol cigarettes are more harmful in lung cancer etiology than non-menthol cigarettes, the research team said.

By generating comprehensive data in a multistage metabolomics approach, the new population-based study aims to shed light on the biological role of menthol cigarette smoking in the causes of lung cancer. It also aims to explain clues in racial and ethnic disparities in lung cancer, filling in knowledge gaps in lung cancer disparities. The research team will develop a full-scale study combining metabolomics data and smoking cessation strategies among African Americans, with the goal of reducing the lung cancer burden.

Yoon is collaborating on the study with Qiuyin Cai, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of medicine in the division of epidemiology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

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