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Cancer grant focuses on care for the underserved

Contact: Allison Leggett
MUSC Hollings Cancer Center                                                      
August 7, 2014

CHARLESTON - The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded a new 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 the Hollings Cancer Center, and AT&T distinguished endowed chair in cancer equity, SmartState Center of Economic Excellence, at the Medical University of South Carolina.

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

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. The NCORP network, she explained, 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 or ethnic minorities or rural residents.  A total of 53 NCORP grants were awarded, with only 12 designated as Minority/Underserved Community Sites.

“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 added. “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
About MUSC                                       
Founded in 1824 in Charleston, The Medical University of South Carolina is the oldest medical school in the South. Today, MUSC continues the tradition of excellence in education, research, and patient care. MUSC educates and trains more than 3,000 students and residents, and has nearly 11,000 employees, including approximately 1,500 faculty members. As the largest non-federal employer in Charleston, the university and its affiliates have collective annual budgets in excess of $1.7 billion. MUSC operates a 750-bed medical center, which includes a nationally recognized Children's Hospital, the Ashley River Tower (cardiovascular, digestive disease, and surgical oncology), and a leading Institute of Psychiatry. For more information on academic information or clinical services, visit For more information on hospital patient services, visit
About Hollings Cancer Center
The Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina is a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center and the largest academic-based cancer program in South Carolina. In addition to the full range of clinical services, the cancer center has more than $42 million in cancer research funding and more than 200 clinical trials open to patients.
Hollings offers state-of-the-art diagnostic capabilities, therapies and surgical techniques with multidisciplinary clinics that include surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation therapists, radiologists, pathologists, psychologists and other specialists equipped to the full range of cancer care. For more information, please visit

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