FIU-RCMI Current Research

Research Projects

Principal Investigator: Diana Azzam, PhD
Florida International University

Research Project 1: Adopting a functional precision medicine approach to reduce cancer disparities in Hispanic and Black children of Miami

The project evaluates a functional precision medicine (FPM) approach as a tool to reduce cancer disparities in children. The aims are to expand access of personalized treatment options and clinical management recommendations to Hispanic and Black pediatric cancer patients based on ex vivo drug sensitivity testing (DST) and genomic profiling and to implement machine learning to identify specific biomarkers among minority populations that can be targeted using FDA-approved drugs.  The proposed work provides opportunities for personalized interventions to promote health equity and more effective cancer treatments.


Co-Principal Investigators: Shanna L. Burke, MSW, MPH, PhD and Sabrina Sales Martinez, PhD, RD
Florida International University

Research Project 2: Microbiome profiles, sleep, and cognition among mid-life Latinx adults (Tri-Sleep Study)

Dr. Shanna L. Burke, FIU-RCMI Tri-Sleep Study PI and Associate Professor, School of Social Work, and Dr. Sabrina Sales Martinez, FIU-RCMI Tri-Sleep Study Co-PI and Assistant Professor, Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, have been awarded an R01-equivalent grant through the FIU-RCMI National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities grant. Growing evidence suggests that sleep disturbance, a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is linked to changes in the gut microbiome in a bidirectional manner. Latinx populations are disproportionately affected by health disparities related to sleep and are 1.5 times more likely to develop dementia, including AD. This study aims to examine the impact of sleep behaviors on cognition while accounting for dietary intake and gut microbiome composition in a midlife Latinx community-based sample and examine socio-cultural factors at various levels of influence that may impact diet, sleep, cognition, and gut microbes.  Investigations examining the microbiota-gut-brain axis are essential in community-based samples to identify modifiable risk factors for cognitive decline and inform novel interventions. These data may lead to future research examining therapeutic strategies for modifiable risk factors, such as sleep, stress, and diet, to attenuate intestinal dysbiosis and delay progression to AD.

Principal Investigator: Diana Sheehan Delgado, PhD
Florida International University

Research Project 3: Addressing community-level influences of HIV and COVID-19 disparities among people with HIV

The primary objectives of this study are to identify modifiable community-level influences on gender, racial/ethnic, and rural/urban disparities in HIV and COVID-19 outcomes among people with HIV and to develop policy and programmatic recommendations to address these community-level influences. The study uses reproducible data science processes to develop a master dataset of 2017-2023 Florida Enhanced HIV/AIDS Surveillance System data, 2020-2023 Florida SARS CoV-2 surveillance data and community data for the State of Florida that will provide a comprehensive and innovative conceptualization of community. Using a mix of complex analytical approaches, and guided by ecosocial theory and the NIMHD Research Framework, we aim to examine community factors that impact health disparities across 5 domains: (1) biological (e.g., community illness, exposure, herd immunity), (2) behavioral (e.g., community functioning), (3) physical/built environment (e.g., community environment & resources), (4) sociocultural environment (e.g., community norms & structure), and (5) health care system (e.g., availability of services). Findings from this study will provide a novel understanding of the impact of community context on COVID-19 and HIV disparities among people with HIV, as well as develop an actionable plan to protect vulnerable populations of people with HIV and support the goals of Ending the HIV Epidemic in the COVID-19 era.

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