Elena Martínez named to National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Advisors

Elena Martínez, PhD
Elena Martínez, PhD

Elena Martínez, PhD, co-director of the Arizona Cancer Center’s Cancer Prevention and Control Program, has been appointed to the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Advisors.

Dr. Martínez, who also serves as co-director of the AZCC’s Cancer Health Disparities Institute and is the Richard H. Hollen Professor of Cancer Prevention at the AZCC and is professor of epidemiology in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, will serve a five-year term. The 35 advisory board members are appointed by the NCI director and serve at major national research universities and at institutions and organizations engaged in cancer research.

The Board of Scientific Advisors makes recommendations on research priorities conducted or supported by the NCI. The advisory role of the board is scientific and does not include deliberations on matters of public policy.

“We are very fortunate to have Dr. Martínez’s voice on the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors. This is the most important decision-making body concerning both NCI extramural spending and policy. Most importantly, Dr. Martínez will represent our large, underserved populations extremely well,” said David S. Alberts, MD, director of the Arizona Cancer Center.

Dr. Martínez, who received her doctorate in epidemiology from the University of Texas-Houston, has extensive research expertise in colorectal cancer and, more recently, in health disparities. Since the early 1990s, she has been studying the risk factors associated with cancer, especially colon cancer. In addition to looking at the markers in a population’s genetic makeup that could increase or decrease the risk, Dr. Martínez also studies the factors that are under the control of an individual, such as diet, smoking and physical activity.

Dr. Martínez is currently funded through the AZCC’s Colon Cancer Prevention Program project, serving as project leader for the molecular epidemiology project of the grant. She recently received funding to conduct research to assess risk factors and clinicopathological characteristics associated with breast cancers diagnosed in the post-partum period in Hispanic women. The study will also examine the epigenetic profiles of these breast cancers and compare these to tumors that occur outside of the post-partum period.

She is also co-principal investigator of the Ella Binational Breast Cancer Study, a study of women of Mexican descent. She also serves as co-investigator on several additional grants, including the gastrointestinal cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence. Dr. Martínez leads a large pooling project, whose goal is to inform the surveillance guidelines for patients after polypectomy.