The Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) and Hunter College of the City University of New York (Hunter) have jointly received a five-year, $13.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The award will underwrite creation of the Temple University Fox Chase Cancer Center (TUFCCC) and Hunter College (HC) Regional Comprehensive Cancer Health Disparities Partnership.
The U54 grant from the NCI, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, aims to enable NCI-designated cancer centers and research institutions to better support underserved populations. This new regional partnership spanning Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York City will identify effective approaches to reducing cancer health disparities that adversely affect African-American, Asian-Pacific-American and Hispanic-American communities. It is the first such grant to be received by any institution serving Pennsylvania or New Jersey and will draw on deep community ties to strengthen outreach throughout the NYC-Philadelphia corridor. More than 70 investigators are involved across both organizations.
“It is a prestigious honor for Temple and Hunter to receive this competitive and unique grant to establish a cross-regional infrastructure to tackle the disproportionate cancer burden affecting underserved and diverse communities,” said Dr. Grace X. Ma, Principal Investigator at TUFCCC, Associate Dean for Health Disparities, Director of the Center for Asian Health, Laura H. Carnell Professor, and Professor of Clinical Sciences at LKSOM. “This partnership will allow us to investigate social determinants of cancer disparities and advance cancer health equity through multidisciplinary research, education and mentorship, and community outreach and engagement.”
“For too long, certain communities have faced barriers that prevent them from getting the best-available cancer prevention, detection and treatment care, and they suffer disproportionately as a result,” said Dr. Olorunseun Ogunwobi, Principal Investigator at Hunter College, Director of the Hunter College Center for Cancer Health Disparities Research, and Associate Professor of Biology at Hunter College. “This grant will enable us to identify research-based solutions to overcome those disparities, improving quality of life and health outcomes. We are grateful that NCI recognized Hunter and Temple’s dedication to improving health equity and are ready to leverage our strong community relationships to engage people in harder-to-reach neighborhoods, conduct much-needed research and build a more diverse pipeline of future investigators and health professionals.”
This new partnership will focus on three core areas: multidisciplinary cancer research, with a spotlight on liver, colorectal and lung cancers; diversifying the research and medical pipeline by training and mentoring minority junior faculty, undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral researchers; and educating and engaging the community. Community outreach will include cancer screenings and symposia, with the specific goals of prevention, intervention, early detection and access to treatment. It also will involve attention to the wide range of barriers that contribute to cancer disparities, including proximity to care, economic issues, health literacy, stigma, stress, mental health and more.
“Innovative and rigorous research in these areas is a crucial component of the partnership between Temple and Hunter,” said Dr. Jean-Pierre Issa, Co-Principal Investigator at TUFCCC, Director of the Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology, and Professor of Medicine at LKSOM. “These projects allow us to meld our cultural and scientific strengths to make significant contributions toward addressing cancer health disparities and toward finding and implementing solutions in this immediate region and beyond.”
Of the communities TUFCCC and HC aim to connect with, African-Americans have the highest mortality rate and shortest survival rate for most cancers compared with any other racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). In Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York City, African-Americans continue to experience significant disparities in lung cancer incidence rate compared to non-Hispanic whites.
Cancer has been the leading cause of death since 2000 for Asian-Pacific-Americans, who have the highest incidence rates of liver cancer among all racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., according to the ACS. Chronic hepatitis infection is a major contributor to that and also exacerbates the high liver cancer incidence rate among Hispanic-Americans, which is double that of non-Hispanic whites.
“I’m extremely proud that Temple and Hunter were chosen for this incredible opportunity,” said Dr. Larry R. Kaiser, Lewis Katz Dean at the School of Medicine, Senior Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at Temple University, and President and CEO of Temple University Health System. “This collaborative effort will yield results for years to come – in basic, clinical and behavioral research; in helping future leaders grow in those fields; and in continuing to build on established relationships with those in the community, as well as create new ones. Their input, their suggestions and their voices are an essential part of this partnership.”
“We are so honored to be recognized by NCI and to join with Temple in a new partnership that will build on Hunter’s long commitment to improving health equity through high-impact research,” said Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab. “At the same time, cancer is not just a disease in a clinical sense – it disrupts families and lives. With our deep community ties and many service-oriented academic programs, we are confident we can make a real difference identifying strategies to reduce cancer disparities while also addressing the multifaceted needs of patients and families affected by the disease.”
The Lewis Katz School of Medicine and the Center for Asian Health will hold a celebration of the launch of the TUFCCC/HC Regional Comprehensive Cancer Health Disparities Partnership on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the LKSOM Medical Education and Research Building (MERB). Hunter College will host a separate launch event in New York City later this fall.