Fox Chase Cancer Center’s Camille Ragin Receives Grant to Take Part in International Effort to Study Black Genomes

Camille Ragin, PhD, MPH
Camille Ragin, PhD, MPH

PHILADELPHIA (January 20, 2022)—Camille Ragin, PhD, MPH, a professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control research program at Fox Chase Cancer Center, is a member of a team that was recently awarded a grant as part of an international effort to decode Black genomes and investigate what drives breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer.

Ragin will be part of a team of researchers from the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean called The African-Caribbean scNetwork. This network of scientists, funded by $1.65 million from the Chan Zuckerberg Foundation, will work to study genetic vulnerabilities in people from the United States, Africa, and the Caribbean, with the ultimate goal of expanding diversity in molecular and cell studies.

As co-principal investigator on the grant, Ragin said she will be responsible for leading implementation of community engagement across the global sites with Althea Bailey, PhD, MPH, a behavioral scientist and director of the outreach core based in Jamaica at the University of the West Indies.

The lead investigator on the project is Sophia George, PhD, research associate professor at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Ragin said the community engagement core for the network plans to work with community partners to implement transatlantic outreach through virtual town halls. These town halls will focus on multiple important topics, including health and disease research and current affairs in health research and disease. These town halls will also include updates to the community about ongoing studies within the network.

“Our benchmarks for success are first to reach of over 3,000 ethnically diverse Blacks and second to measure improvement in attitude of participants with respect to participating in research requiring human subjects and tissue and cell donation,” she said.

Ragin, whose lab at Fox Chase focuses on racial disparities in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, has previous experience in international projects as the founder of the African Caribbean Cancer Consortium (AC3), which is a multi-institutional collaborative network that focuses on studies of cancer risk and outcomes among populations of African ancestry. Many members of this group will be involved in the African-Caribbean scNetwork.

“The relationship between African ancestry, aggressive disease biology, and early onset warrants us to study the normal tissue composition, the proportion of sub-populations that are thought to give rise to neoplasms, and the interplay with germline genetics. The AC3 members have built stable and lasting collaborations among clinicians and scientists in Africa, the U.S., and the Caribbean over the past decade,” said Ragin.

She added that the opportunity for community engagement will enhance activities that are already ongoing in the virtual space as well as at various AC3 sites.

“I look forward to working with Dr. Althea Bailey on this aspect of the project. I am also equally delighted to have the opportunity once again to collaborate with Dr. Sophia George. We look forward to this team science collaboration that seeks to understand and improve the health of Black individuals across the African diaspora,” said Ragin.

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence five consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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