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NCI Renews Funding for San Diego Universities, Community Health Centers to Work Together

Joint effort will address cancer health care disparities among Hispanic/Latinos


  • Yadira Galindo

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  • Yadira Galindo

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A collaborative program aimed at reducing the burden of cancer among Hispanic/Latinos in San Diego and Imperial counties through research and community outreach has received a $13 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health. The five-year grant renews funding for a partnership started in 2008 between San Diego State University and Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health.

“By renewing this unique partnership, NCI is recognizing the success and commitment of UC San Diego and San Diego State University to outstanding science, research education, and community outreach,” said Scott Lippman, MD, director of Moores Cancer Center. “Cancer continues to be the leading cause of death for Hispanics, but together we are advancing research and closing the gap on cancer disparities in this community.”

The SDSU/UCSD Cancer Center Comprehensive Partnership, one of only 12 programs funded through NCI’s Comprehensive Partnerships for the Advancement of Health Equity, will support 30 joint research projects, research education programs for undergraduate students of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups who are studying cancer and cancer disparities as well as collaborations with community partners, researchers and students.

“There are needs not being addressed in cancer education, prevention and care among Hispanics,” said Maria Elena Martinez, PhD, UC San Diego School of Medicine professor of family medicine and public health and Moores Cancer Center’s principal investigator on the SDSU/UCSD cancer partnership. “This partnership helps to reduce disparities by taking a comprehensive approach with the help of 29 community partners representing stakeholders in the Hispanic community in San Diego and Imperial counties.”

Hispanics have the highest rates for certain types of leukemia as well as cancers associated with infection, such as liver, stomach and cervical. Although Hispanics are less likely to develop the most common forms of cancers than non-Hispanic whites, such as breast, colon and prostate, they are more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stages of these cancers and less likely to survive after diagnosis. This is due in part to lower than average health screenings.

“The Partnership will provide an opportunity for investigators from various levels to conduct innovative research which will strengthen the cancer research agenda at SDSU and UC San Diego,” said Elva Arredondo, PhD, San Diego State University associate professor in the Graduate School of Public Health. “The grant will build on existing community partnerships and link SDSU and UC San Diego with new community organizations. These efforts will help address cancer disparities evident among racial/ethnic groups, including Hispanic communities.”

As an official Hispanic Serving Institution, a designation of the federal government that means the university is eligible for extra resources to expand educational opportunities for and improve the attainment of Hispanic students, San Diego State University has strong ties to the Hispanic community. Together with Moores Cancer Center, an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center with world-renown research, the two institutions can achieve much more than either can on their own, said Martinez.

The SDSU/UCSD Cancer Center Comprehensive Partnership is headed by Martinez, co-leader of the Reducing Cancer Disparities research program at Moores Cancer Center, and Arredondo of San Diego State University, with Sheila Crowe, MD, UC San Diego professor of medicine and director of research in the Division of Gastroenterology, and Mark Sussman, PhD, San Diego State University professor of biology in the College of Sciences.

A close partnership with federally qualified community health centers that care for traditionally underserved Hispanic populations is an innovative feature of the program, which includes a research partnership with San Ysidro Health Centers and a community outreach program with Family Health Centers of San Diego.

Funding for this research came from the National Institutes of Health (2U54CA132379-06A1, 2U54CA132384).

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