New Partnership Attacks Disparities in Cancer Outcomes

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The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded $2.17 million grant to develop a joint cancer drug discovery and development and research education program to focus on cancers that have increased risk of incidence and/or mortality among underserved communities, ethnic populations such as African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans who bear a disproportionate burden of cancer compared with other groups

The new program, a partnership between University of Houston (UH) College of Pharmacy and the Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine, will be lead by Diana Chow, UH College of Pharmacy Pharmaceutics professor and director of its Institute for Drug Education and Research and Martin M. Matzuk, Baylor College of Medicine pathology professor and director of the Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Photo 1.0: Diana Chow, UH College of Pharmacy Pharmaceutics professor and director of its Institute for Drug Education and Research, is leading the UH side of a partnership with Baylor to develop a joint cancer drug discovery and research education program aimed at cancer disparities.

Liver Cancer
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a primary malignancy of the liver. The disease occurs predominantly in patients with underlying chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Worldwide HCC is the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, affecting more than 500,000 people. The incidence of HCC is especially high in Asia and Africa, where an endemic high prevalence of hepatitis B and hepatitis C strongly predisposes the development of chronic liver disease and subsequent development of hepatocellular carcinoma.

This pastern is also noted in the United States.

“Liver cancer has a higher incidence rate among African Americans and [Latinos than among white people.” Chow said. Furthermore, certain types of breast, including triple-negative breast cancer and prostate cancers have higher incidence and mortality in the African-American population,” Chow added.

“Our research will seek to find new drugs to treat these cancers using preclinical models derived from these patients. We will use the expertise in cancer drug discovery platforms at the Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the experience and track record in cancer drug development at UH College of Pharmacy to improve outcomes in underserved communities across the nation,” Chow said.

Beyond Cancer Outcomes
“Not only do disparities exist in cancer outcomes, there is also lack of diversity in the cancer research workforce. Changing that will increase society’s understanding of the causes and risk factors for cancer in different populations, work that could eventually be tested in clinical trials,” said associate professor of Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacy Meghana V. Trivedi, who is spearheading the cancer research education component of the program and will also participate in a pilot project for cancer drug discovery and development research.

“Much of the basic science and clinical trials data are available from primarily Caucasian populations, and so we understand less about cancers in minority populations,” Trivedi added. The project could lead to a more representative generation of cancer researchers, bringing fresh insights and encouraging greater involvement of underserved communities.

Recruitment
Besides recruiting next-generation cancer researchers, the education program will also enhance current researchers’ awareness and knowledge of cancer health disparities. The University of Houston, a Hispanic and Asian – serving institution, is a perfect place to start.

“One of our objectives is to educate students about different modalities of cancer research; you don’t have to be a biology major to be a cancer researcher,” Trivedi noted.

“We’ll be reaching out to students with different majors, encouraging them to explore careers in cancer research and join the effort to find a cure for cancer in underserved ethnic groups,” Trivedi concluded.


Last Editorial Review: November 7, 2018

Featured Image: Medical/science laboratory. Courtesy: © 2010 – 2018 Fotolia. Used with permission. Photo 1.0: Diana Chow, UH College of Pharmacy Pharmaceutics professor and director of its Institute for Drug Education and Research, is leading the UH side of a partnership with Baylor to develop a joint cancer drug discovery and research education program aimed at cancer disparities. Courtesy: © 2018 University of Houston. Used with permission.

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