Fox Chase Researchers Win $1.4 Million Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Health Equity Grant

PHILADELPHIA (July 7, 2022)—A team of researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center have been awarded a Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Health Disparity Research Award for New Investigators.

The three-year $1.4 million grant provides funding to investigate how social determinants of health, including environment and socioeconomic status, impact quality of life and treatment-related decision-making in men with advanced prostate cancer.

Shannon Lynch, PhD, MPH
Shannon Lynch, PhD, MPH

“For this grant, we wanted to take a comprehensive approach and look at not only a patient’s own social and economic circumstances, but also the neighborhood where they live, to see how these factors work together to impact patient quality of life and satisfaction with their prostate cancer treatment decisions,” said Shannon Lynch, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control research program at Fox Chase.

Lynch is the principal investigator on this grant. Her colleague, Erin K. Tagai, PhD, MPH, an assistant research professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control research program, is a co-investigator. 

The two study social determinants of health, but from different angles. Lynch describes her research as using a “neighborhood lens” to identify social determinants that can help explain differing rates of advanced prostate cancer across populations. Tagai focuses on identifying social determinants reported by localized prostate cancer patients that affect treatment decision-making and quality of life.  

Erin K. Tagai, PhD, MPH
Erin K. Tagai, PhD, MPH

“This is really exciting for me to be able to work with Shannon, who has a different but very complementary perspective on social determinants, and move this research forward,” said Tagai.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis and the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United States. Black men in particular are more likely to be diagnosed with and die of prostate cancer and are also more likely to report decreased quality of life after they receive treatment.

Lynch and Tagai’s study therefore aims to identify social determinants of health that explain these disparities, to unpack the causes underlying them, and to use the findings to inform interventions that will improve patients’ quality of life.

The study is designed in three phases. The first two phases will draw data and recruit eligible participants from Fox Chase and Temple Health clinics, as well as available databases, including the Temple and Fox Chase contributions to the Pennsylvania Urologic Regional Collaborative, a statewide database of men diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in urology practices.

In the first phase, Lynch and Tagai will identify social determinants of health that might explain differences between Black and white men diagnosed with prostate cancer when it comes to how they choose treatment and what their quality of life is after treatment. In the second phase, the researchers will interview some of these men as well as clinicians, including Fox Chase and Temple Health oncologists, to get their input on why the disparities might be occurring. The final phase of the research will be translational, which means they will implement their findings in the clinic to change care.

“The main goal of this study is to be able to update and adapt an existing social determinants of health screening tool based on our study findings,” said Lynch. That tool, she added, would help clinicians identify men who might be at risk for regret or poorer quality of life after their treatment decisions. The goal then would be to connect these men with social programs and tools to support their treatment decisions and help improve their quality of life.

The award was supported by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and the Defense Health Agency J9, Research and Development Directorate, or the U.S. Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command, in the amount of $1,402,490 through the Prostate Cancer Research Program (PCRP) under Award No. W81XWH-22-1-0368. Opinions, interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the Fox Chase Cancer Center and are not necessarily endorsed by the Department of Defense.

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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