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Hunter College and Temple University Win Joint $13.5-Million Grant to Reduce Cancer Disparities in the NYC-Philadelphia Corridor

African-Americans have the highest mortality rates and shortest survival periods for most cancers, and cancer has been the leading cause of death since 2000 for Asian-Pacific Americans, according to the American Cancer Society. But too often, these and other communities face barriers to cancer diagnosis, treatment, and crucial services. To address this major public health concern, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has awarded Hunter College and Temple University a major grant to reduce cancer disparities that adversely affect minority communities.

The award will underwrite creation of the Temple University/Fox Chase Cancer Center and Hunter College Regional Comprehensive Cancer Health Disparities Partnership, and contribute to large-scale efforts to better address the critical healthcare needs of underserved communities. This new regional partnership spanning Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City will identify effective approaches to reducing cancer disparities. Hunter’s participation in the grant recognizes the College’s dual strengths in developing groundbreaking scientific research and having the relationships and expertise needed to foster effective outreach to traditionally underserved communities.

“We are so honored to be recognized by NCI and to join with Temple in a new partnership that will build on Hunter’s long commitment to improving health equity through high-impact research,” said Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab. “At the same time, cancer is not just a disease in a clinical sense – it disrupts families and lives. With our deep community ties and many service-oriented academic programs, we are confident we can make a real difference identifying strategies to reduce cancer disparities while also addressing the multifaceted needs of patients and families affected by the disease.”

Hunter’s multiple campuses, along with outstanding schools focused on nursing, social work, and education, make the College uniquely positioned to tackle health disparities from multiple entry points, identifying and addressing the diverse barriers that can inhibit patients and their families from pursuing treatment and securing the services they need. Under the leadership of Olorunseun Ogunwobi, Associate Professor of Biology, Director of the Hunter College Center for Cancer Health Disparities Research, and Principal Investigator for the study at Hunter, the initiative will draw on the expertise of more than 70 investigators from Hunter and Temple.

Dr. Larry R. Kaiser, the Lewis Katz Dean at the School of Medicine and Senior Executive Vice President for Health Affairs at Temple University, and President and CEO of Temple University Health System, looks forward to the broad benefits of the grant-funded partnership: “This collaborative effort will yield results for years to come – in basic, clinical and behavioral research; in helping future leaders grow in those fields; and in continuing to build on established relationships with those in the community, as well as creating new ones.”

The new partnership will focus on three core areas: multidisciplinary cancer research, with a spotlight on liver, colorectal and lung cancers; diversifying the research and medical pipeline by training and mentoring minority junior faculty, undergraduate and graduate students, and post-doctoral researchers; and educating and engaging the community. Community outreach will include cancer screenings and symposia, with the specific goals of prevention, intervention, early detection, and access to treatment. It also will involve attention to the wide range of barriers that contribute to cancer disparities, which include proximity to care, economic issues, health literacy, stigma, stress, mental health, and more.

“For too long, certain communities have faced barriers that prevent them from getting the best-available cancer prevention, detection and treatment care, and they suffer disproportionately as a result,” said Professor Ogunwobi. “This grant will enable us to identify research-based solutions to overcome those disparities, improving quality of life and health outcomes. We are grateful that NCI recognized Hunter’s and Temple’s dedication to improving health equity, and are ready to leverage our strong community relationships to engage people in harder-to-reach neighborhoods, conduct much-needed research, and build a more diverse pipeline of future investigators and health professionals.”

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