A True Pioneer in Cancer Disparities and Equity

Camille Ragin
Camille Ragin, PhD, MPH, is Associate Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Professor, Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center. Her research focuses on cancer disparities among Black populations in the United States and around the world.

Serving Those Who Need it Most

Groundbreaking cancer treatments and prevention efforts start with developments and discoveries in the laboratory – which is where the researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center set themselves apart. Among those making a powerful impact in the community and around the world is Camille Ragin, PhD, MPH, Associate Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and Professor, Cancer Prevention and Control Program

Since joining Fox Chase in 2011, Dr. Ragin has made it her mission to identify and address the contributing factors for cancer disparities among people of African descent – including race and ethnicity, social determinants of health, and biology/genetics. Her research facilitates greater understanding of why Blacks have the highest incidence and death rates for most cancers, as well as the shortest survival rates, when compared with all other racial and ethnic groups. 

As Dr. Ragin proudly dedicates her life’s work to studying systematically underrepresented populations where the burden of cancer is high, she is driving more effective intervention and addressing of disparities for future cancer prevention.

A Global Impact for Black Patients

Dr. Ragin’s current research projects include leadership in a worldwide, multi-site genomic study of Black patients diagnosed with breast or prostate cancer. While it involves the enrollment and collection of data from patients diagnosed at Fox Chase and in the Temple Health system, the program also includes patients from 13 other sites throughout the United States, the Caribbean and Africa.

The project is supported by the African-Caribbean Cancer Consortium (AC3), which Dr. Ragin founded in 2006. The consortium, which in 2023 received the prestigious Team Science Award from the American Association of Cancer Research, facilitates research collaborations among more than 150 members from 17 institutions in the United States and 23 countries in the Caribbean and Africa. Their work furthers the study of viral, genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors for cancer risk and outcomes in people of African descent.

“This is the very first time that we're looking at tumors from these cancer patients from all these different geographic regions in one single study,” Dr. Ragin says. “It’s a thoroughly unique and impactful study that we’ve been working for the past 17 years to accomplish, so it’s incredibly meaningful for us and for the patients who are involved to see it come to fruition.”

Other novel research conducted by AC3 includes studies of biomarkers of susceptibility to prostate cancer among men of African ancestry; HPV infections among Black women in multiple countries; and assessments of knowledge, perception and attitudes of HPV and the HPV vaccine in the United States and the Caribbean.

Advancing Cancer Control & Prevention

Another primary, ongoing focus of Dr. Ragin’s research includes head and neck cancer disparities for Black patients to inform further studies and drive new ways to prevent and treat cancer. In alignment with the Fox Chase Cancer Control and Prevention research program, in which she serves as Professor, she embraces the population-based approach and the emphasis on assessment and communication of risk factors. 

“When it comes to racial and ethnic disparities, we know that socioeconomic and socioecological factors are the primary drivers. However, there is evidence to suggest that biology may also be a contributor,” Dr. Ragin says. “In a nutshell, the focus of my research is to identify those factors that contribute to the disparities, whether it's the development of cancer or outcomes in terms of poor survival from cancer.”

Dr. Ragin’s local impact includes establishing the Cancer Prevention Project of Philadelphia (CAP3), a multicultural, community-based cancer prevention registry. CAP3 has been instrumental in developing a model for population-based health disparities research studies, combining education and community engagement with successful research recruitment.

“Paying special attention to the specific needs of specific populations that are impacted, making sure that our interventions are truly tailored to address those concerns in for those populations, will help drive discoveries that are going to be much more impactful,” Dr. Ragin says of her body of work. “That's what I hope will help to reduce the disparities that we see.”

Equity for Patients and Researchers

A world-class molecular epidemiologist and groundbreaking researcher, Dr. Ragin also is the Associate Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Fox Chase. She facilitates greater diversity in hospital leadership; provides training and education on race-related issues to the community; and facilitates collaboration among the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Temple University Health System, and Fox Chase on issues of diversity and inclusion.

Her role includes serving as a mentor for medical students and young scientists who are just starting to pave their own way in the field – a role she cherishes because minority groups are highly underrepresented as researchers as well as subjects of clinical trials. But she sees a brighter future ahead.

“Over the years, through our research of disparities, we’ve seen many accomplishments along the way in reducing mortality rates and the incidence of cancer in underrepresented population groups,” she says. “In this era, what I see is not just a focus on disparities, but also a focus on equity. And there's a real difference between the two. That’s what’s going to move the needle.”

Research, Care, Community

With a long and storied history of breakthrough research, Fox Chase continues to lead the field with seminal scientific discoveries that have key translational implications. The insights gleaned from our laboratory studies will inform future research and eventually applied to patient care while safely evaluating new approaches to preventing and treating cancer through clinical trials, which may eventually drive standard protocols with far-reaching implications.

That’s the benefit of Fox Chase’s elite standing as an NCI-designated Cancer Center: Our research is led by extraordinarily talented scientists who work in an ideal environment for fundamentally important discoveries. With additional support from our partnership with Temple University Health System’s oncology research, treatment and prevention programs, Fox Chase research makes a world of difference in Northeast Philadelphia and all other communities that we serve.

“Everything that we do at Fox Chase, whether it's the clinical faculty or the research faculty, is all about the patient and addressing cancer outcomes in our populations and specifically in our catchment area,” Dr. Ragin says. “That's what makes this institution so special – we are attuned to our community, we understand our community's needs, and we're using the world’s best science and expertise to address them.”

Become Part of Tomorrow’s Cancer Care Today

As one of the four original cancer centers to receive comprehensive designation from the National Cancer Institute, Fox Chase Cancer Center has been at the forefront of cancer research for more than 100 years. With a singular focus on cancer, we combine discovery science with state-of-the-art clinical care and population health.

Interested in joining our world-class research team to advance the fight against cancer?

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