Native American Cancer Prevention

The Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention (NACP) is a collaboration between Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona Cancer Center, funded through the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity (PACHE) U54 mechanism.

The mission is to alleviate the unequal burden of cancer among Native Americans of the Southwest through research, training, and community outreach programs in collaboration with the communities we serve.

Programs are designed to facilitate the entry of Native Americans into biomedical research. Research projects include laboratory and community-based participatory cancer research focusing on the needs and interests of the communities we serve. All programs involving communities originate in those communities and are developed and implemented in partnership with NACP students and faculty. 

Aim One: Our Developmental Core will foster and support culturally-appropriate research capacity at

our institutions both through research projects and through faculty recruitment and development.

Aim Two: We will honor the culture of the Native American communities we serve by providing

opportunities to integrate their values, beliefs and needs into every aspect of the NACP.

Aim Three: We will increase the number of culturally competent biomedical researchers and health

workers by increasing the number of Native American students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty

trained in cancer prevention, cancer control, and cancer-related health care policy through our

Training Core.

The NACP provides a unique and valuable opportunity for collaboration with investigators and the Native American communities to address their health concerns related to cancer as well as providing advanced training programs for Native American students entering undergraduate and graduate research.

NACP Research

Cancer research projects that address the needs of the Native American communities and that build research capacity at NAU are solicited through a request for applications each year and are selected based on their relevance to Native American cancer health concerns.

Current list of NACP publications from 2003 to present can be found on the following:

Restoring Balance Article

  • To develop projects focused on cancer health disparities in the Native American communities of Arizona;
  • To bring together a team of investigators engaged in peer-reviewed collaborative research with the intent to build cancer research capacity at NAU;
  • To integrate research on cancer disparities into existing and future UACC research programs through interdisciplinary collaborations;
  • To train Native American students interested in biomedical research. 

Outreach Core

The goal of the Outreach Core of the Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention is to provide technical assistance, resources, programs and opportunities to Tribal/Community partners that include communityled research/intervention projects, applying communitybased participatory principles and a socioecological model to build Tribal and community capacity for implementing sustainable cancer prevention/control and cancer research initiatives.

The Specific Aims of the Outreach Core are as follows:

Aim 1: In collaboration with our Tribal/community partners we will assess their current level of readiness to implement cancer program activities (from lower impact awareness and education to high impact clinical practice and policy changes), track progression, and provide feedback (community readiness model).

Aim 2: We will develop, implement, and evaluate a toolkit and training program that can be delivered through multiple modalities (inperson and/or electronically) to provide an American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) cultural competency training specific on cancer for healthcare providers and research. 

Aim 3: Community projects will be developed by and for southwest AI/AN communities that will support increased use of primary and secondary cancer prevention strategies (community grants).

Outreach Publications for Conducting Research in Native American Communities

Research Education Core

Native Americans are the most underrepresented racial/ethnic group among physicians and scientists. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number one cause of death among Native Americans is cancer. This is in contrast to the majority population for which heart disease is the number one killer. Arizona has 21 federally recognized tribes and Native Americans back up 5% of the population.  Thus the state’s universities are ideally positioned to train a greater number of Native Americans for biomedical careers. It is anticipated that this can be an effective approach to addressing cancer health disparities in Native American communities.

The goal of the training program is to increase the number of Native American students entering careers in cancer research and healthcare. Programs will be implemented to increase the numbers of entering freshmen and tribal and community colleges in our programs, and an undergraduate training program will be implemented to prepare students to enter graduate research and professional programs.

  • Mentor Native American students to succeed in their undergraduate studies and expose them to hands-on research and Native American role models.
  • Provide activities to successfully transition Native American undergraduate students into advanced degree programs which will train them to address cancer health disparities in their communities.
  • Mentor NACP junior faculty and provide cultural competency training in partnership with the Outreach Core for all NACP faculty and staff.

NACP Research Education Core Activities include:

1) summer programs to transition students from high schools or community colleges to the university
2) mentored projects with investigators conducting cancer-related research
3) summer internships at other institutions
4) development of an individualized career plan
5) attendance at national meetings focused on health research in Native American communities
6) mentoring sessions with Native American researchers as role models
7) a graduate programs primer that provides guidance on applying for post-baccalaureate degree programs.


  • UA - NACP/UBRP is a collaboration with the University of Arizona's Undergraduate Biology Research Program (UBRP). The summer research opportunity is offered to six University of Arizona Native American undergraduates. Participants work 35 hours per week for 12 weeks in the summer on a mentored research project. To view NACP mentors, benefits and eligibility click here. Application opens October 1st.
    • Summer 2020: May-August
    • Application opens October 1 
    • Application DEADLINE: February 1

CLICK HERE to apply

  • NAU - Intro to Research aims to support four Native American first and second-year college students or first-year tribal/community college students with an introduction to the field of cancer-related research with the goal to transition them into a higher level of research.
  • NAU - Research aims to support four students to improve their preparation and training for biomedical and behavioral sciences at the PhD level. This includes continuation of research and exposure to cancer-related careers.


  • Graduate Programs Primer (GPP) - A mini-conference at the UA to provide students in NACP about UA graduate programs in biomedical and cancer research. This includes faculty and UA staff presenting on a variety of topics from admissions to financial aid as well as students touring laboratories and other related facilities, held in conjunction with the Undergraduate Biology Research Program poster session in January.  During the conference, students speak with representatives from post-baccalaureate degree programs. 

  • "My Journey" seminars - a speaker series during the Fall and Spring semesters that focuses on Native American professionals in the health sciences fields. The speakers will present their work and their journey through academia while also giving students the opportunity to gain motivation, network, and knowledge about the health-science field, interests, and/or educational endeavors.


  • Individual Development Plans (IDP) are created with each student to help in the transition from undergraduate to graduate and professional programs.

    • UA - offers this as a course, MCB396K.
  • Mentor NACP junior faculty and provide cultural competency training in partnership with the Outreach Core for all NACP faculty and staff. 

For more information on NACP's Research Education Core, please e-mail:

Margaret Briehl at
Tiffani Begay at
Hendrik De Heer at 
Sheena Hale at