Center for Optimization of Participant Engagement for Cancer Characterization (COPECC)

  • Colorectal cancer
  • Hispanics/Latinos
  • University of Southern California
  • Grant Number: U2C CA252971

Building a foundation for access to health care innovation for Hispanic/Latino cancer patients.

University of Southern California

CRC is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in the United States. Hispanic/Latino/a(x) (H/L) CRC patients tend to be diagnosed at a younger age and with higher stage, and it has also been reported that Mexican H/L in California have a higher proportion of young (<50 years of age) diagnoses compared to other H/L subgroups. Moreover, significant gaps persist in the availability of molecular profiling data from diverse cancer patient cohorts, including significant limitations in data from H/L cancer cases. A barrier to increasing diversity in biomedical research studies is the lack of culturally appropriate approaches to engaging and involving underrepresented minority communities for participation in research.

To address these challenges and to identify solutions to these issues, we have created the Center for Optimization of Participant Engagement for Cancer Characterization (COPECC) at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The overarching goal of COPECC is to build a foundation for access to health care innovation for Hispanic/Latino cancer patients. Our center will perform among the largest and most comprehensive studies to characterize the molecular features of CRC in H/L, particularly those with early onset cancer. These data will help the scientific community best understand the mechanisms driving CRC in our H/L population. Importantly, we will concurrently develop and optimize culturally tailored methods to best engage our H/L patient population towards developing optimized models that can be distributed broadly to advance increased representation in biomedical research studies.

Project Aims

  • Engage H/L CRC patients using culturally tailored tools developed in collaboration with behavioral scientists, patient advocates, and Community Outreach and Engagement leaders.
  • Comprehensively characterize the genomic tumor landscape and germline genetics of 500 H/L with CRC to address the knowledge gap for this patient population, with focus on early onset colorectal cancer.
  • Continuously optimize our tools for patient engagement and for delivery of genomic and genetic information, and develop and test novel risk communication strategies for delivering information through rigorous approaches, incorporating patient preferences and needs.


COPECC John Carpten

John Carpten, PhD

COPECC Heinz-Josef Lenz

Heinz-Josef Lenz, MD


Mariana Stern, PhD

COPECC David W Craig

David Craig, PhD

COPECC Lourdes Baezconde Garbanati

Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, PhD

Additional Team Members


Sandra Algaze, MD

COPECC Julie Culver

Julie Culver, MS

COPECC Grace Diaz

Grace Diaz

COPECC James W Gauderman

James Gauderman, PhD


Natalia Gutierrez, MS


Daisy Hernandez, MS


Syma Iqbal, MD


Caryn Lerman, PhD

COPECC Juan Pablo Lewinger

Juan Pablo Lewinger, PhD

COPECC Ashley Noriega

Ashley Norigea


Elizabeth Quino, MPH


Brenda Ramirez

COPECC Charite_Ricker

Charite Ricker, MS


Janet Rodriguez, MPH


Crystal Rubalcava


Joel Sanchez Mendez, MBBS MBA

COPECC Bodour Salhia

Bodour Salhia, PhD

Elena Taylor

COPECC Jennifer Tsui

Jennifer Tsui, MD

COPECC Enrique Velazquez Villarreal

Enrique Velazquez Villareal, MD