Population Research Core

Director: Brad McDowell, PhD
Faculty Advisors: Mary Charlton, PhD, and Chuck Lynch, MD, PhD

The Population Research Core (PopRC) is a centralized resource dedicated to the needs of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center in the domain of population science. We provide high quality epidemiology support that promotes strong observational study designs and data collection/curation methods. The PopRC provides this support in close collaboration with Holden members and the Tissue Procurement Core, the Molecular Epidemiology Resource, and the Biostatistics Core.

The core is composed of staff who are based in institutional centers of expertise, with intimate knowledge of the resources of these centers and how to harness them. Staff include computer programmers, database analysts, and research scientists.

The core provides investigators with services, including:

  • Study design and methodology: PopRC works with users to develop study design and methodology to answer population-based research questions. This includes planning comparisons and selection of appropriate epidemiological study designs (e.g., retrospective cohort study, case-control, etc.). PopRC also identifies the methodological resources that will be used to accomplish study goals.
  • Database research activities: PopRC staff members are familiar with commonly used datasets (e.g., the unlinked SEER research database, SEER-Medicare, and Iowa cancer incidence and follow-up data) along with many others. They work with investigators to develop inclusion and exclusion criteria; determine definitions for cohort initiation, follow-up, and censoring; construct and validate analytic variables; perform database linkages; maintain quality control; and develop database queries.
  • Population-based field research: Other population-based studies require prospective collection of data or coding of existing information. In these cases, PopRC staff can apply field research techniques. PopRC staff and faculty advisors have extensive experience and support tools for recruitment/consenting of study participants, administering surveys/interviews, development of cohort selection criteria, medical chart abstraction, and participation monitoring/study management.
  • Biospecimens: The Iowa SEER program has worked with pathology labs around the state for more than three decades to retrieve formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue for research studies. This constitutes a virtual repository (VTR) of tissue samples that are linked with cancer incidence and follow-up data (which includes demographic, tumor, initial treatment, and outcome data). In addition to this resource, the Iowa SEER program has worked with the same pathology labs to retrieve and store older paraffin-embedded tissue blocks that these labs would have otherwise destroyed. These samples compose a residual tissue repository (RTR) that also is linked to cancer surveillance data. The Holden Comprehensive Center Tissue Procurement Core (TPC) works closely with PopRC to encourage use of this unique resource.