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NCI Holds Disparity Summit in Washington

By Francis X. Mahaney, Jr.

The National Cancer Institute's Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities recently sponsored a conference in Washington, D.C., on cancer disparities for the 18 grantees of its special population network for cancer awareness, research and training cooperative agreement.

The Disparities Summit, formerly known as the Cancer Control Academy, is an annual event bringing together cancer researchers, health experts and community partners from diverse racial populations and ethnic cultures to build collaboration in disparity research and to address the cancer health problems of the poor and underserved.

"The existence of disparities in cancer outcome is not only a challenge to biomedical science but also a moral and ethical dilemma for this nation," said Dr. Harold Freeman, director of the CRCHD. A former president of the American Cancer Society and chairman of the President's cancer panel (1992-2002), he has served three Presidents as chief architect of an ACS initiative on cancer in the poor.

Dr. Harold Freeman of NCI addresses the summit on cancer disparities.

More than 260 people attended, including American Indians, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, Latinos, rural Appalachians, Asian Americans, Black Americans, Native Alaskans, the elderly and white Americans.

A presentation by Dr. Grace Ma, associate professor of public health at Temple University, typified the broad emphasis of the special population program. She described a large study, designed to address tobacco prevention and intervention in four subgroups of young Asian Americans, that has led to training and education publications in five languages.

"We live under conditions of contradiction," said Dr. Claudia Baquet, director of a cancer disparities and intervention program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. "While we live in one of the wealthiest and most profoundly advanced countries in the world, there is still a disproportionate number of Americans who remain without equal access to quality cancer care."

But to Baquet, the special populations network brings systematic change to the poor, offering diverse research, outreach and medical care on the same level to all populations regardless of racial and ethnic background. "To be a part of all of these diverse energies is absolutely thrilling," she said.

The summit also included workshops on grants administration, recruitment to clinical trials and maximizing network partnerships.

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