Cancer Research Blog

Bringing You the Latest in the Search For a Cure

Year: 2014

Grantee Spotlight: Community Health Educator Antoinette Ayers, Helps VA Residents Become More Proactive about Managing Their Health

Community health educator (CHE), Antoinette Ayers, has been working tirelessly to make health services more accessible to the people of Petersburg, VA. And by all accounts, she and her colleagues at the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Massey Cancer Center, which specializes in cancer prevention and treatment for the underserved, have made a real difference by bringing a health resource center to the city’s historic public library.

As the saying goes, good things come in small packages. Physically, the resource center is little more than a bookshelf or two filled with books, magazines, and videos on a range of health topics, and a desk staffed by information specialists who have received Consumer Health Information Specialization training from the National Library of Medicine at NIH.

Grantee Spotlight: Marvella Ford, Ph.D. – Reducing Barriers to Surgical Cancer Care among African Americans with Lung Cancer

Two investigators at the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Hollings Cancer Center—Marvella E. Ford (Ph.D.) and Nestor F. Esnaola (M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.), were awarded a five-year National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) R01 grant this past April.

Their research will evaluate the impact of a patient navigation intervention in reducing barriers to surgical cancer care and improving surgical resection rates among African Americans with Stage I-II non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Two hundred African Americans will be recruited from six geographically diverse sites within a southeastern cancer clinical trials network to participate in a two-arm, cluster randomized trial comparing enhanced versus usual care.

Grantee Spotlight: Marcia Cruz-Correa, M.D., Ph.D., Finds Link between Human Papillomavirus and Colorectal Cancer

CRCHD grantee Marcia Cruz-Correa, M.D., Ph.D., bolstered by her team of researchers from the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), have discovered a link between human papillomavirus (HPV) and colorectal cancer (CRC) in tissue samples from a large cohort of CRC patients. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It has been linked to cervical and anal cancers, but may be prevented by a vaccine. CRC is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the underserved in the United States.

Cruz-Correa is also lead primary investigator on a CRCHD Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity (PACHE) grant between UPR Medical School and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas.

Special Spotlight: In Memoriam Patricia Susana Lorenzo, Ph.D. Cancer Researcher and Former CRCHD Grantee

Patricia Susana Lorenzo, Ph.D, an associate professor who worked in the Cancer Biology Program at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center’s since 2001, passed away on September 18, 2013, in Kailua, HI. A remarkably compassionate woman, friend, colleague, wife, and researcher, Lorenzo spent 20 years of her life arduously seeking better treatments for cancer, the disease to which she, herself, unfortunately succumbed.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she attended the University of Buenos Aires, earning her Ph.D in pharmacology in 1995. As a student, Lorenzo received numerous awards for her academic performance and research, including a Young Scientist Award from the Fundación Alberto J. Roemmers.

Special Spotlight: In Memoriam Alessandra Margherita Bini, Ph.D. CRCHD Program Director

Alessandra Margherita Bini, Ph.D., a Program Director in the Diversity Training Branch of the NCI Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD), passed away February 26, 2014, of Gastrointestinal Cancer. She was 63 years-old.

Dr. Bini, a long-time and highly respected scientist at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), lived in Bethesda Maryland. Beginning in 2010, she served as a Program Director at CRCHD in charge of vital funding mechanisms, such as the Ruth L Kirschstein National Research Service Award Pre-doctoral Fellowship (F31), and the National Research Service Award Institutional Training Grants (T32) Supplements. For the past four years, Dr. Bini was involved in trans-NCI and trans-NIH activities on behalf of CRCHD.

Program Spotlight: Ground Broken for NCI-supported Cancer Treatment Center in Puerto Rico

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held last month in San Juan for a $196-million, 287,000 square foot University of Puerto Rico (UPR) cancer hospital. The 12-storey medical facility, scheduled to open in April 2016 and employ 750 people, will offer state-of-the-art cancer treatment and conduct clinical trials. The hospital is part of the larger UPR Comprehensive Cancer Center (UPRCCC) that opened in 2009.

Sanya A. Springfield, Ph.D., CRCHD Director, represented the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the national ceremony hosted by Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla. In her opening remarks, she acknowledged that “turning a dream into this wonderful reality, took years of effort and dedication. The driving force behind all of this has largely been this partnership.”

Grantee Spotlight: Nathan Ellis, Ph.D. Seeks Molecular Basis of Colorectal Cancer Disparities in African Americans

Colorectal cancer (CRC) death rates have been declining steadily overall; however, the same has not been true among African Americans (AA). While access to healthcare may be a partial explanation, there is the possibility that genetic differences between AA and non-AA populations explain some of the discrepancy.

Genetic risk factors are known to contribute to CRC susceptibility in whites but these risk factors have not been studied in AAs. That is precisely where Nathan Ames Ellis, Ph.D., internationally renowned geneticist and CRCHD U01 grantee is focusing his energy. Using comparative population-genetic analysis, he hopes to shed new light on cancer susceptibility and the biological basis of CRC health disparities in AA.

Program Spotlight: Partnership for the Advancement of Cancer Research Project Brings Cancer Research Training to Underrepresented Students at New Mexico State University

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, New Mexico State University (NMSU) is making inroads into the recruitment and training of greater numbers of Native Americans and Hispanics for careers in cancer research, as well as drawing greater attention to the importance of cancer health disparities research. It’s all part of a collaboration between NMSU and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (FHCRC), known as the “Partnership for the Advancement of Cancer Research Project.” The collaboration was initiated in 2002 with the assistance of a Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity (PACHE) U56 award.

Under the leadership of principal investigators Mary O’Connell, Ph.D., (NMSU) and Beti Thompson, Ph.D., (FHCRC), the Partnership for the Advancement of Cancer Research Project offers three levels of diversity training opportunities to underrepresented NMSU students interested in biomedical research: undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral.

Program Spotlight: Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center Partnership Receives $8 Million Grant to Start Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy

A center designed to train underrepresented students to work in cancer research, as well as conduct translational cancer research focused on personalized cancer treatment, has received $8 million in funds to start-up a Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy (CPCT) at the University of Massachusetts in Boston (UMass Boston).

UMass Boston and Dana Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) have a U54 Partnership grant with NCI/CRCHD to develop life sciences and CPCT on the UMass Boston campus. Plans for CPCT have been in the works for the past seven years. The $8 million grant toward the project was provided by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, the agency charged with implementing the Commonwealth’s 10-year, $1-billion investment initiative in the local life sciences industry.

Program Spotlight: National Outreach Network’s Community Health Educators Provide Much-Needed Support to Cancer Survivors from Racially/Ethnically Diverse Communities

Better treatments and better access to care during the past 10 years have led to renewed optimism and hope, as well as a longer and better quality of life for many cancer survivors from disparity populations.

There are an estimated 13.7 million cancer survivors living in the U.S. That number is expected to rise to 18 million by the year 2022. About 68% of today’s cancer survivors were diagnosed with cancer five or more years ago. Nevertheless, the journey after initial cancer treatment is often an arduous one filled with constant worry about recurring disease, difficult decisions regarding follow-up care and emotional support, and financial burden.

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