As the COVID-19 pandemic shines a light on health disparities, efforts to find new ways to reduce them get a boost.
Lung cancer is responsible for the greatest number of cancer deaths each year in the United States and in North Carolina, and African Americans carry a disproportionate share of this burden. African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with lung cancer and more likely to die from it, compared to White people.
Stomach cancer is not as common, but the disparities are worse. Nationwide, people of color are twice as likely to develop stomach cancer. In seven counties served by the Duke Cancer Institute (DCI), the incidence of stomach cancer among African Americans is three to four times that of Whites. Black people are also two-and-a-half times as likely to die of stomach cancer than Whites, which is the biggest mortality disparity of any cancer in the United States.
A group of researchers at the Duke Cancer Institute (DCI) is working to change those statistics, and a new federal grant is giving them a big boost.
“This effort is part of the overall global initiative across Duke to address health disparities and across DCI to address cancer health disparities,” says Steven Patierno, PhD, professor of medicine and deputy director of the Duke Cancer Institute.
Patierno is principal investigator of the grant, which supports two projects—one relating to lung cancer, and the other to stomach cancer. “Both projects will produce information that can influence and change clinical paradigms,” Patierno says.
The grant, an Exploratory Grant (P20) from the National Cancer Institute to develop a Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE), is intended to help establish the necessary foundation to grow a program capable of winning a larger Specialized Center (P50) SPORE grant. At that point, the program would be expanded to address disparities in other types of cancers.