PHILADELPHIA (November 2, 2023) — Lewis Katz School of Medicine/Fox Chase Cancer Center and Hunter College of the City University of New York have received a five-year, $13.3 million competitive grant renewal from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, to address cancer health disparities.
The grant will enable NCI-designated cancer centers and research institutions to better support underserved populations. It will continue to support groundbreaking work in reducing cancer health disparities that adversely affect African American, Asian-Pacific American, and Hispanic American communities across the Philadelphia and New York City metropolitan areas, as well as New Jersey.
“It is an honor for Temple and Hunter to have this important comprehensive cancer health disparities partnership grant renewed so we can continue to tackle the disproportionate cancer burden affecting underserved and diverse communities by making a significant impact on multiple levels. This includes institutional, multidisciplinary research, and community engagement, as well as training, education, and diverse workforce development,” said Grace X. Ma, PhD, Contact Principal Investigator on the grant.
Ma is the Associate Dean for Health Disparities, Founding Director of the Center for Asian Health, and Laura H. Carnell Professor at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, as well as a Professor in the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Fox Chase Cancer Center.
“In the next five years, our partnership aims to break systemic structural barriers and promote inclusiveness across disciplines in order to advance cancer health equity,” Ma added.
“The support from this grant allows us to foster new and innovative approaches to health challenges that have been affecting these populations for many years,” said Camille Ragin, PhD, MPH, Co-Principal Investigator on the grant and Associate Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Fox Chase. “With a diverse group of investigators and trainees, we put ourselves in a position of strength to effectively engage with our communities and develop research-based solutions to the barriers impacting these groups.”
The initial five-year, $13.5 million grant, which was awarded in 2018, helped underwrite the creation of the Temple University/Fox Chase Cancer Center (TUFCCC) and Hunter College (HC) Regional Comprehensive Cancer Health Disparities Partnership. Since the grant was first awarded, it has helped fund studies focusing on liver, lung, and colon cancers that have led to a better understanding of more personalized treatment strategies for underserved populations. The grant is managed through NCI’s Center for Cancer Health Disparities, directed by Sanya A. Springfield, PhD.
“The collaborative efforts of Temple and Hunter College have already proven instrumental in addressing these health disparities,” said Amy J. Goldberg, MD, FACS, the Marjorie Joy Katz Dean at the Katz School of Medicine. “We are incredibly proud that Temple and Hunter College have been awarded this opportunity for a second time, and we look forward to seeing the continued positive impact these endeavors will have on our communities.”
“We are thrilled to have been awarded an additional five years of funding to keep this important partnership thriving,” added Joel Erblich, PhD, Contact Principal Investigator and Professor in the Department of Psychology at Hunter College. “As a direct result of this grant, Hunter College faculty, students, and the broader New York City and Philadelphia communities will continue to fight cancer health disparities with innovative community-based research, training, and outreach activities.”
Jennifer Ford, PhD, another Co-Principal Investigator on the grant and Deputy Chair of the Department of Psychology and Director of the Hunter College Psycho-Oncology Lab, echoed Erblich’s comments.
“It is an honor to be involved in such an innovative and important partnership to address cancer disparities that impact our surrounding communities in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. By training and educating the next generation of cancer researchers and scientists, we will have the ability to more broadly impact the field in a sustainable and meaningful way.”
The cancer health disparities partnership created by the initial five-year grant is also known as the Synergistic Partnership in Enhancing Equity in Cancer Health (SPEECH). Since 2018, SPEECH has launched 108 cross-institutional research projects, established collaborations with 51 community- and faith-based organizations, and educated 1,340 community members on liver, colon, and lung cancer prevention.
SPEECH includes more than 80 multidisciplinary investigators across both Hunter College and TUFCCC organizations. It also includes 207 trainees from diverse backgrounds who are mentored by TUFCCC and Hunter College faculty.
The two institutions will continue to focus on three core areas: multidisciplinary cancer research; diversifying the research and medical pipeline by training and mentoring minority junior faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers; and educating and engaging the community.
Community outreach will specifically focus on intervention, early detection, and access to treatment. It will also continue to address the wide range of barriers that contribute to cancer disparities, including social determinants of health, proximity to care, economic issues, health literacy, stigma, stress, mental health, and more.