UNC Scientists Receive National Cancer Institute Grant to Address Cancer Health Disparities

CHAPEL HILL, NC - Cancer is the leading cause of death in North Carolina, but it doesn’t affect all citizens equally. North Carolina rates of prostate and colon cancer in African-Americans are 47% and 15% higher respectively than in Caucasians, and breast cancer deaths among African-American women are 20 percent higher than for Caucasians.

Scientists at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health have received a five-year $3.9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to reduce these cancer health disparities in 13 North Carolina counties through the Carolina Community Network to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities.

The Carolina Community Network, established with funding from a previous grant, developed partnerships in the central Piedmont area counties of Alamance, Caswell, Chatham, Guilford, Montgomery, Orange, Randolph and Rockingham, and in the eastern region counties of Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash, Northampton and Wilson. These partnerships were developed to increase the community’s knowledge of cancer and access to and use of beneficial biomedical and behavioral programs.

With the new center grant, UNC scientists will conduct community-based participatory research and cancer education and outreach activities, working with community organizations and agencies.

“We’re taking a three-pronged approach,” explains Paul Godley, MD, PhD, MPP, principal investigator for CCN. Godley is UNC School of Medicine’s executive associate dean for faculty affairs and faculty development, professor in the division of hematology/oncology and director of the Program on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health Outcomes (ECHO), a university initiative to advance understanding and elimination of racial health disparities through multidisciplinary research, education and training, and community partnerships.

“First is a research project in Guilford County using information from a previous pilot study to increase awareness of and participation in colorectal cancer screening among under- or uninsured African-Americans. What we learn can then be shared and disseminated across North Carolina and the nation. Second, we will conduct a pilot research project to improve National Cancer Institute clinical trial enrollment among African-Americans in North Carolina. Third, we will continue to increase the number of qualified cancer investigators experienced in using community-based participatory research through training, mentoring and partnering with communities.

“We are happy that the National Cancer Institute recognized the leadership of UNC faculty in expanding our well-established partnerships with community programs and organizations dedicated to decreasing cancer deaths due to health disparities and increasing cancer prevention and screening among African-Americans.”

Other UNC principal investigators are faculty members of UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health: Anissa I. Vines, PhD, research assistant professor of epidemiology; Alice Ammerman, DrPH, professor of nutrition and director of the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention; Marci Campbell, PhD, MPH, RD, professor of nutrition; William Carpenter, PhD, assistant professor of health policy and management; Giselle Corbie-Smith, MD, MS, associate professor of social medicine, medicine and epidemiology; Eugenia Eng, DrPH, professor of health behavior and health education, and Cathy Melvin, PhD,   research  associate professor of maternal and child health.

Community partnering organizations include Black Men’s Health InitiativeIcon indicating that a link will open an external site., CrossWorks, IncIcon indicating that a link will open an external site., Healthy Carolinians of Orange County, Health Carolinians of Alamance CountyIcon indicating that a link will open an external site., Nia’s ArkIcon indicating that a link will open an external site., N.C. Institute for  Minority Economic DevelopmentIcon indicating that a link will open an external site.Rural Health Group, Inc.Icon indicating that a link will open an external site., and the Komen NC Triangle AffiliateIcon indicating that a link will open an external site. along with community-based groups in several North Carolina counties.

UNC is among 23 institutions across the US selected to receive a Community Networks Program Center grant from the National Cancer Institute in 2010.