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The Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care (MECCC) and the Albert Einstein Cancer Center (AECC) were awarded a $3.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to conduct multisite cancer clinical trials and research focused on reducing healthcare disparities in cancer care.
The five-year award comes through the newly established NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), a national network of investigators, cancer-care providers, academic institutions and other organizations that will conduct research to improve cancer diagnosis, treatment and management, particularly in minority and underserved communities. Montefiore and Einstein were chosen as one of 12 NCORP Minority/Underserved Clinical Sites.
The program will be conducted at the MECCC and directed by three investigators: Joseph A. Sparano, M.D., a professor of medicine (oncology) and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein, vice chair of medical oncology at the MECCC and associate director of clinical research at the AECC, will lead efforts in cancer therapeutics; Mark H. Einstein, M.D., M.S. ’05, a professor and director of oncology research in the department of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein and vice chair of research for the department at the MECCC, will oversee cancer prevention; and Bruce D. Rapkin, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology & population health and of family and social medicine at Einstein and the MECCC, will focus on cancer control and delivery.
“The burden of cancer is not equally distributed in this country,” says Dr. Einstein, also a professor of epidemiology & population health. “Men and women of color have the highest incidence and death rates from cancer of any group. They tend to be diagnosed later in the course of their disease and have less access to well-established preventive and treatment measures. We will help change that.” Dr. Einstein’s research focus is on the prevention of cervical cancer due to human papillomavirus infection and the treatment of gynecologic malignancies.
In addition to leading cancer clinical research at Montefiore and Einstein, Dr. Sparano has helped minority populations gain access to cancer clinical trials as an essential part of cancer care. “Cancer mortality rates are declining rapidly as a result of improved treatment, screening and prevention, but improvements have lagged in minority populations,” says Dr. Sparano. “Clinical trials have provided a foundation for much of this improvement. The NCORP mechanism will allow us to integrate new approaches that may address this disparity.”
Dr. Rapkin is a psychologist whose research focuses on developing community interventions for cancer and improving the quality of life of medically underserved individuals and communities. “Not only should quality cancer care be available to minority and underserved groups, but we need to remove other barriers to access, such as by improving health literacy and knowledge of preventive measures,” says Dr. Rapkin. “We will continue to tap into our existing partnerships in the Bronx, Harlem and Queens to tease out the issues and develop ways to address them.”