New York Researchers Reducing Cancer Burden for Minorities

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NEW YORK, NY – April 13, 2012 – The American Cancer Society, the largest non-government, not-for-profit funding source of cancer research and training in the United States, has awarded twelve national research grants totaling more than $8.5 million to support research aimed at achieving health equity. The grants are among 135 research and training grants totaling about $52 million in the first of two grant cycles for 2012, which includes 10 grants totaling $10.7 million in New York State. These projects are aimed at understanding and eliminating cancer burden disparities that affect minority populations.

During the past ten years, the Society has dedicated a portion of its extramural research funding towards studies of cancer in poor and medically underserved populations. During that time, the program awarded 133 grants worth more than $113.5 million. Building on those ten years of targeted funding for research in poor and underserved populations, the Society’s Extramural Grants program recently began a program of priority funding for psychosocial, behavioral, health policy, and health services research that will result in reductions in cancer health disparities.

“Cancer does not affect everyone equally. This is why we invest in projects that explore how this disease impacts different populations,” said Dr. Alvaro Carrascal, senior vice president of cancer control, American Cancer Society of New York & New Jersey. “We need to recognize and understand cancer disparities so that we can eliminate them.”

Locally, one disparity in critical need of better understanding is no further than New York City’s Chinatown. Lara Dhingra, PhD of Beth Israel Medical Center has discovered that cancer hits harder in this community. Chinese Americans suffer disproportionately high rates of digestive cancers, are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at a late stage and are much more likely to suffer from cancer-related pain. Dr. Dhingra wants to close this gap. While there are multiple factors that likely contribute to this disparity – including cultural factors, language barriers, and problems accessing care stemming from economic and immigration factors – the path to a solution may lie in working with the small community-based oncology practices where many ethnic Chinese seek care. Dr. Dhingra’s team is currently collaborating with oncologists in Chinatown to develop and test a quality improvement intervention for pain and symptom management, with an end goal to create an effective system of recognizing and managing pain and other symptoms for the Chinese American community.

In another local project, Tullika Garg, MD, of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center plans to study gender disparities in bladder cancer diagnosis and the impact this has on the oncologic outcome. Currently in the United States, nearly 56,000 men and 18,000 women are diagnosed with bladder cancer every year. Though more men are diagnosed, a higher percentage of women succumb to this disease, with nearly 20,000 men and 10,000 women dying from bladder cancer each year. Dr. Garg’s grant was recently awarded and is slated to go into effect beginning July 1, 2012.

Highlights from some additional newly-awarded nationwide grants are below:

* Karen Freund, MD, MPH, of Tufts University School of Medicine, has received one of the Society’s most prestigious grants – a Clinical Research Professor award. Dr. Freund’s research program has three goals: to understand the impact of the health care system on disparities in cancer outcomes for vulnerable populations; to determine how  patient navigator programs help reduce barriers to care in vulnerable populations; and to understand the role of health insurance reform in reducing health disparities.
* Hayley Thompson, PhD, of Wayne State University has received a grant to support her research to address the issue that Latina breast cancer survivors are less likely to receive recommended post-treatment screening for recurrences or new breast cancers. She will test whether a DVD that provides key information about breast cancer surveillance and recurrence, including the perspective of a Latina breast cancer survivor, can increase the likelihood that Latina survivors will get screened for breast cancer.
* Curtis Wray, MD, of University of Texas Medical School at Houston proposes a model to reduce disparities in liver cancer treatment and outcomes for poor and medically underserved patients. This project will produce guidelines to assist patients and providers in making informed decisions about appropriate liver cancer treatments, including palliative care, particularly when the disease is in an advanced stage.
* Michael Businelle, PhD, of MD Anderson Cancer Center, will study the factors that make it less likely that Spanish-speaking Mexican American smokers of low socioeconomic status (SES) will successfully quit. His study will use smart phones to identify real time situations that may promote relapse in Spanish-speaking Mexican Americans, in comparison to Caucasians, African Americans, and other Latinos. Dr. Businelle’s eventual goal is to develop smart phone interventions tailored to assist low SES smokers with their specific tobacco cessation challenges.

Additional Reading:
Cancer Facts & Figures for African Americans
Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics & Latinos
American Cancer Society's Research Program

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About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

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