Epidemiology Research Core

Epidemiology Research Core

Mission of the Core

The Epidemiology Research Core (ERC) mission is to support population-based research by accessing Metropolitan Detroit Cancer Surveillance System (MDCSS) cancer cases and their data for use in approved research. The ERC provides epidemiology expertise and collaborates with researchers conducting investigations in cancer prevention, etiology, treatment and outcomes. The ERC also works with system-wide tumor registry data to support system-based research and to support Community Outreach and Engagement initiatives. This type of population-and hospital-based cancer research is made possible by ERC accessing this data on behalf of researchers, which ensures confidentiality.

The Epidemiology Research Core is supported, in part, by NIH Center grant P30 CA022453 to the Karmanos Cancer Institute at Wayne State University.

Core Services Available

  • Consultation: Consultation and collaborative research expertise focused on study design, proposal development, IRB applications and interpretation of population-based local and national SEER data. ($0) (Free initially, but salary support for MDCSS-affiliated faculty with appropriate expertise is requested for ongoing funded projects).
  • Rapid Case Ascertainment: Rapid identification and ascertainment of eligible study participants, requiring review of all pathology reports indicating a cancer diagnosis at approximately 60 metropolitan area hospitals, clinics, pathology laboratories and radiation therapy facilities and rapid collection of patient demographic information. This speeds up case identification for population-based studies, with most cases identified within two to three months of diagnosis. ($55/case)
  • Control Identification: Identification of population-based control groups for case-control study designs, Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) records, Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records, and other mechanisms ($36.37/per control)
  • Research Support and Training: Regulatory oversight and research training support of study staff involved in studies in which participants are being contacted. ($53.43/hour)
  • Collection and Abstraction of Medical Records: Collection of medical records and abstraction of study-specific data that are not available in the MDCSS registry ($51.64/hour)
  • Biospecimen Collection: Collection of biologic specimens, including blood, buccal cells, saliva, urine and spirometry, from study participants from study participants from both population-based (MDCSS identified cases) and clinic-based (identified from both Karmanos Cancer Institute and non-Karmanos Cancer Institute facilities) studies.($75/specimen)
  • Tissue Retrieval: Collection of biologic tissue specimens, including tumor blocks and H&E stained slides and unstained slides from diagnosing hospitals including Karmanos Cancer Institute and non-Karmanos facilities. Tumor Collection from Karmanos facilities is coordinated with the Biobanking and Correlative Sciences Core ($49.51/specimen)
  • Database Query: Response to requests for population-based data requiring query of the MDCSS data, Karmanos downtown and network tumor registry data and/or the national SEER de-identified research data files for descriptive analyses ($49/hour)
  • Database Linkage: Linkage of outside data sources to MDCSS data for the collection of patient demographics, treatment and survival data. Use of the linked SEER-Medicare files is included in this service line ($49/hour) 

Request Services


Jennifer Beebe-Dimmer, MPH, Ph.D.
Scientific Director, Epidemiology Research Core

Julie Ruterbusch
Director, Epidemiology Research Core

Tara Baird
Manager, Epidemiology Research Core

Epidemiology Research Core Facilities & Instrumentation

The Epidemiology Research Core (ERC) is housed in the Mid-Med Research building, alongside the Metropolitan Detroit Cancer Surveillance System (MDCSS) and near the Wayne State University (WSU) Institutional Review Board (IRB). Mid-Med includes about 25,000 square feet of space and is located nearby WSU School of Medicine (SOM). The ERC area constitutes about 1,800 square feet. Mid-Med has a permanent guard stationed at the entrance during normal business hours and is locked down with swipe access during non-business hours. The ERC and MDCSS are located in a further secured area of Mid-Med, also requiring separate swipe access to enter.

All offices and most cubicles within the ERC and MDCSS physical space have a desktop computer or connection available for a laptop computer and a dedicated telephone line. All desktop computers are password-protected, have email and internet access, are upgraded on a regular basis and equipped with recent versions of Microsoft Office©, which allow for word-processing, creation of spreadsheets and MS Access© databases and creation of presentations and scientific posters in MS Powerpoint©. Computers with connection to MDCSS data are also installed with encryption software. ERC analytical staff also have SAS© statistical software and ArcGIS© demography software. In addition, the ERC has use of Qualtrics© online questionnaire development and data collection software.

The MDCSS data system contains all cancer diagnosis and survivorship information for the Detroit metropolitan area from 1973 forward. The data is housed in the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program Data Management System (SEER*DMS). SEER*DMS is a relational database that supports central cancer registry operations and includes features for importing, editing, consolidating, exporting, and reporting on cancer-related data. Data sits on secured servers in a locked, monitored and access-limited data center. In addition, ERC analytical staff have online access to the national SEER Research databases which include data from 21 SEER registries across the United States. All systems and databases in the department are backed up to a data-retrievable network server with encrypted offsite disk to disk backups run nightly.

There is a conference room in the department with video conferencing and web conferencing capabilities, as well as a larger conference room nearby, for use by MDCSS and ERC staff and faculty. The remaining space in the department is common area space, which includes easily-accessible multiple printers, copiers, a microfiche reader and other office equipment necessary and available to researchers.

Epidemiology Core Selected Publications

Beebe-Dimmer JL, Ruterbusch JJ, Cooney KA, Bolton A, Schwartz K, Schwartz AG, Heath E. Racial differences in patterns of treatment among men diagnosed with de novo advanced prostate cancer: A SEER-Medicare investigation. Cancer Medicine (2019); 8(6):3325-3335.

Hastert TA, Kyko JM, Reed AR, Harper FWK, Beebe-Dimmer JL, Baird T, Schwartz AG. Financial hardship and quality of life among African American and white cancer survivors: The role of limiting care due to cost. Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers Prev (2019); 28(7):1202-1211.

Schwartz Kl, Simon MS, Bylsma LC, Ruterbusch JJ, Beebe-Dimmer JL, Schultz NM, flanders SC, Barlev A, Fryzek JP, Quek RGW. Clinical and economic burden associated with stage III to IV triple negative breast cancer: A SEER-Medicare historical cohort study in elderly women in the United States. Cancer (2018); 124(10):2104-2114.

Seymour EK, Ruterbusch JJ, Beebe-Dimmer JL, Schiffer CA. Real-world testing and treatment patterns in chronic lymphocytic leukemia: A SEER patterns of care analysis. Cancer (2019); 125(1):135-143.

Thakur MK, Ruterbusch JJ, Schwartz AG, Gadgeel SM, Beebe-Dimmer JL, Wozniak AJ. Risk of second lung cancer in patients with previously treated lung cancer: Analysis of Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data. J Thorac Oncol (2018); 13(1):46-53.

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