Tara M. Friebel is researching the prevention and early detection of women’s cancers in sub-Saharan Africa. She received a new investigator award in 2023 from the American Society of Preventive Oncology.
Tara M. Friebel, a cancer epidemiologist with expertise in global oncology and implementation science, is joining Rutgers Global Health Institute as a principal faculty member.
Friebel will become an assistant research professor of global health at the institute on October 16. Her research focuses on the prevention, early detection, and treatment of breast and cervical cancer in low-resource settings. She also will be affiliated with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in the Cancer Epidemiology and Health Outcomes section of the Division of Medical Oncology.
A focus of Friebel’s research is the disparities in cancer care that exist in low-resource settings. Her recent work, involving populations in Africa, has investigated geographic, clinical, and sociodemographic factors among cervical cancer patients in Botswana and the use of implementation science methods to reduce the breast cancer burden in Tanzania. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals – including JCO Global Oncology, Cancer Medicine, Cancer Treatment and Research Communications, PLOS One, and BMC Women’s Health – and has addressed issues across the globe, including guidelines for cervical cancer screening in HIV-endemic countries; patient perspectives on cervical cancer screening in Botswana; breast cancer diagnostic and treatment pathways in Tanzania; and disparities in risk factors for the breast cancer triple negative subtype among Black women undergoing screening mammography at the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
“My passion for global equity in cancer care inspires me to focus on areas where cancer incidence is high and resources are low. Early detection and prevention can play an extremely important role in reducing the escalating burden of cancer, especially in regions of our world where there are significant barriers to accessing care,” Friebel says. “No one should die from a preventable or curable disease because they cannot access care.”
Friebel also conducts implementation science research to understand how evidence-based cancer control interventions can be incorporated successfully into real-world settings. She received a funding award from the National Cancer Institute’s Consortium for Cancer Implementation Science to identify strategies for scaling up such interventions, the findings of which will be published in a forthcoming issue of JCO Global Oncology.
Her recent work evaluating breast cancer care in Tanzania identified that almost 30 percent of diagnosed patients did not initiate treatment, “a major problem that, if remedied, would certainly improve breast cancer outcomes,” Friebel says. Her National Cancer Institute-funded doctoral research involving a cohort study in Botswana identified a negative association between the amount of time a person traveled to receive a cervical cancer screening and the stage of their cancer when diagnosed, suggesting that individuals may delay seeking health care because of access issues. Friebel says that this type of data contributes to the development of evidence-based public health interventions that are appropriate for specific settings. For example, offering cervical cancer screening services at rural clinics is an intervention that could mitigate access-related barriers.
Earlier this year, Friebel received an award from the American Society for Preventive Oncology and was invited to present her research, titled “Economic evaluation of breast cancer care pathways in Tanzania,” at the society’s New Investigator Workshop. She also presented at the University of Botswana in Gaborone (“Implementation science in LMICs”) and at the Global Health Catalyst Summit in Philadelphia, U.S.A. (“Cascade analysis for breast cancer pathways in Tanzania”). In November, she will present at the African Organisation for Research and Training in Cancer International Conference in Dakar, Senegal (“Evaluation of a multi-component intervention for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment at a zonal hospital in Mwanza, Tanzania: an interrupted time series analysis” and “Health care workers’ perspectives on recruitment and retention in cancer clinical trials in Nigeria”).
Friebel comes to Rutgers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she has been a postdoctoral research fellow. She received a doctoral degree in epidemiology from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and a master of public health degree focused in chronic disease epidemiology from Johns Hopkins. Friebel also was a research project manager at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and University of Pennsylvania.