May 29, 2007
Treatment for head and neck cancer is particularly aggressive, affecting speech, swallowing, breathing and communication. A grant from the Lance Armstrong Foundation to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will fund research on the experiences of head and neck cancer survivors, so that health professionals can effectively manage the impact of treatment on a patient’s social, family and work roles.

Photograph of Dr. Andy Olshan

Photograph of Dr. Andy Olshan

The three-year, $246,760 grant was awarded to Dr. Andy Olshan, professor and chair of epidemiology in the UNC School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study. Olshan is also a research professor in the School of Medicine’s department of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery and program leader for cancer epidemiology in the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Because quality of life outcomes are especially critical for head and neck cancer (oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal) patients and their caregivers, more research is needed on the experiences of survivors, especially among black patients, Olshan said. The study will examine the influence of social, clinical, access to care, and behavioral factors on quality of life. Blacks have a higher incidence and worse survival than other groups.

“Given the paucity of data and studies on quality of life among African-American head and neck cancer survivors we expect this study to yield valuable new data,” Olshan said.

Olshan and his colleagues will analyze data collected for the Carolina Head and Neck Cancer Study (CHANCE), the largest epidemiologic study of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck in the United States and the first to include a significant number of black patients. Patient information will be collected one year after diagnosis and three years after diagnosis. The CHANCE study, which is ongoing, is funded by the National Cancer Institute.

Photograph of Dr. Jianwen Cai

Photograph of Dr. Jianwen Cai

Pilot funds for the quality of life work were obtained from the Excellence Fund of the School of Medicine. CHANCE collaborators include Drs. Mark Weissler, JP Riddle Distinguished Professor of otolaryngology/head and neck surgery; William Funkhouser, professor of pathology; and Jianwen Cai, professor and associate chair of biostatistics in the UNC School of Public Health.

The Lance Armstrong Foundation, founded in 1997 by cancer survivor and champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, is a nonprofit organization located in Austin, Texas.

Note: Andy Olshan may be reached at 919-866-7424 or

UNC Lineberger contact: Dianne Shaw (919) 966-5905,


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