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Vol. LX, No. 19
September 19, 2008

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NCI Summit Highlights Science of Cancer Health Disparities

Summit attendees (from l) Maylynn Riding In, Katrina G. Claw, Lana Rae Fred and Pamela Williams of the Intertribal Council of Arizona display their poster on genomics.

Summit attendees (from l) Maylynn Riding In, Katrina G. Claw, Lana Rae Fred and Pamela Williams of the Intertribal Council of Arizona display their poster on genomics.

Photo: Bill Branson

NCI’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD) hosted its annual Cancer Health Disparities Summit recently, spotlighting the science of cancer disparity research.

More than 900 researchers, federal, state and local public health officials and community advocates converged at the event “Eliminating Cancer Health Disparities Through Science, Training and Community.” The meeting highlighted the basic clinical and community-based science behind many of the programs currently funded by CRCHD.

“Many populations in the United States suffer disproportionately from cancer,” said CRCHD director Dr. Sanya Springfield. “And much is being accomplished to bring about exciting new advances in cancer research to African-American, Latino, Native American, Asian, Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander and medically underserved communities.”

Evidence-based prevention, screening and treatment interventions being utilized among the Community Networks Program, Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences, the Minority Institution and Cancer Center Partnership and the Patient Navigation Research Program were shared with attendees.

Summit ’08 also showcased scientific efforts to diversify the cancer health disparities training pipeline by featuring grant-writing basics, workshops to build successful scientific careers and a glimpse into the NIH internal review process through a mock review grant. The summit also gave junior investigators an opportunity to display their scientific efforts. For example, Tyesha Farmer, an NCI-funded doctoral fellow at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, spoke before a packed audience on genomic profiling of early- onset breast cancer in African-American and European-American women.

She found that African-American patients had a higher grade of aggressive subtype’s breast tumors than their European-American counterparts. Moreover, African-American patients exhibited a greater degree of genomic instability.

Topics highlighted during the summit included: biological determinants of cancer health disparities; patient navigators; cancer epidemiology; psychological factors and risk factors; sharing research with policymakers; new media to promote cancer education; and outreach to increase cancer prevention efforts.

“We benefit tremendously by learning what other programs are doing, what other populations are doing and what other communities are doing,” said Dr. Donald Warne, health policy research director for the Intertribal Council of Arizona, an NCI grantee. By sharing scientific information, he noted, “there are templates of projects that we in the American Indian community have not thought about but can be easily implemented.”

Dr. Kathryn Braun of the Imi Hale Native Hawaiian Cancer Network in Honolulu agreed that the summit is a “critical place to share information on interventions proven, by research and evaluation, to work.” Based on an HHS intervention she heard at the summit a few summers ago, she has successfully begun a smoking-cessation program in native Hawaiians on seven islands where one in four persons smoke.

One of the major sessions at the summit focused on strategies to overcome barriers to clinical trial recruitment in rural and diverse communities.

Dr. Claudia Baquet, associate dean for policy and planning at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, reported that African-American communities in some areas of (Allegany, Washington, Baltimore City and Prince George’s counties) had lower than expected participation in NCI clinical trials. When Baquet focused on efforts to increase participation from Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore, she saw a 20-fold increase in NCI clinical trial participation in minorities, a 25 percent increase in trial participation in African Americans and a 40-fold increase in participation in NCI clinical trials overall.

Her results, published in the July 10 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, examined 2,240 Maryland cancer patients enrolled in NCI clinical trials during a 5-year period.

“It was an exciting couple of days,” Springfield said. “It was tremendously gratifying to see firsthand the drive and commitment from this phenomenal body of researchers, clinicians and community members who make a difference in the lives of our cancer patients and our communities. We know we can always do better and we continue to look to the community to help us in our efforts to reduce and ultimately eliminate cancer health disparities.” NIHRecord Icon

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