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Hollings Cancer Center receives $3.4M grant to target underserved, minorities

 Allison Leggett | MUSC News Center | August 7, 2014


Hughes-Halbert
Julia Lynn
 
Dr. Chanita Hughes-Halbert focuses on ways to improve the delivery of cancer care to underserved and minority populations. 

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded a five-year grant to Hollings Cancer Center (HCC) researchers to conduct multi-site cancer clinical trials and cancer care delivery research studies, specifically those that include significant representation of minority and underserved communities.

The grant was awarded under the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), a national network of investigators, cancer care providers, academic institutions and other organizations that provide care to diverse populations in community-based health care practices across the United States. Funding for the HCC program is $3.4 million to be awarded over five years.

“This is important for the entire state of South Carolina,” said Chanita Hughes-Halbert, Ph.D., principal investigator for the grant, “as we will now have greater access to the latest therapeutic forms for cancer treatment, greater access to top clinical trials, and we will provide expertise to develop new strategies for how cancer care is delivered to everyone represented in our communities.”

Hughes-Halbert is program leader for Cancer Control at HCC, and AT&T distinguished endowed chair in cancer equity, SmartState Center of Economic Excellence, at the Medical University of South Carolina. She also is an appointee of President Barack Obama to the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors.
 
Anthony J. Alberg, Ph.D., Blatt Ness endowed chair in oncology and the associate director of Population Sciences at HCC, said Hughes-Halbert brings impressive credentials on board. She joined MUSC's staff in 2012. “We are fortunate to have a national leader like Dr. Hughes-Halbert at Hollings, especially with her focus on the important issue of cancer health disparities.”

Research through this grant will be conducted across three facilities - the Medical University of South Carolina, Medical University of South Carolina-Hilton Head Breast Health Center, and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center – and include participants from across the state.

Support for this work is critical, especially as health care becomes more personalized given the availability of genetic testing for mutations in cancer susceptibility genes that has fundamentally changed the way in which early detection is conceptualized and practiced in the U.S. health care system, she said.

Cancer care delivery research within NCORP focuses on diverse and multi-level factors (e.g. social, financing systems, process, technology, and others) that affect access to and quality of care in the community. According to Worta McCaskill-Stevens, M.D., director of NCORP, this program allows NCI to take advantage of recent advances in the understanding of cancer and bring this new knowledge into clinical trials conducted in the community, where most patients receive their care. She said the NCORP network will identify and evaluate the critically needed interventions that reduce cancer risk and incidence, enhance cancer patients’ quality of life, and increase access to clinical trials and cancer care delivery research for minority, rural and other underserved patient populations.

The HCC received this grant as one of 12 NCORP Minority/Underserved Community Sites, designated for sites that have a patient population comprised of at least 30 percent racial/ethnic minorities or rural residents.  A total of 53 NCORP grants were awarded, with only 12 designated as Minority/Underserved Community Sites. 

Alberg said that 60 percent of Hollings cancer patients travel more than 60 miles for their cancer care, so the center has a diverse population base. Hughes-Halbert said this is ideal for the research to be done.

“One of the strengths of the Hollings Cancer Center is that we have a diverse patient population, enabling us to reach a more diverse group in our research and ultimately help bring improved therapies to all populations,” Hughes-Halbert said. “Our research tells us that there are significant differences in how cancer occurs and reacts in differing groups within the population. It’s important that we understand these differences and seek treatments that best serve each individual.”

To learn more about NCORP, please visit http://ncorp.cancer.gov.

 

 

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