Newswise — NEW YORK, NY (March 23, 2021)  – Mount Sinai researchers have received a grant award to lead a collaborative team of New York institutions in an initiative that addresses disparities in the participation of Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in cancer clinical trials.

Stand Up To Cancer® (SU2C) awarded $6 million to a multi-institutional team, its first team of researchers dedicated to health equity in cancer research.

The team, which has been named the SU2C Health Equity Breakthrough Team, will be led by Nina Bickell, MD, MPH, Professor of Population Health Science and Policy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Co-lead of Cancer Prevention and Control for The Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai and Director of the Healthcare Delivery Science Core at the Institute for Health Equity Research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The team includes doctors and scientists specializing in both social science and clinical research from four New York City institutions that serve some of the most diverse and medically underserved communities in the United States. 

“Much of our standard of care in cancer is grounded in research with mostly white populations,” said Dr. Bickell, a renowned researcher in cancer disparities. “Our goal is to figure out how we can change that —in how scientists approach their work, how medically underserved communities can learn more about pioneering cancer research and treatments, and how care delivery systems can make it easier for patients to learn about clinical trials.”

For decades, Dr. Bickell has worked with New York City’s safety-net hospitals, designing and implementing programs that reduce disparities in cancer care and investigating potential causes of underlying inequalities in cancer outcomes. Also on the team is Zorina Costello, DMin, Director of Community Engagement for the Center for Spirituality and Health at Icahn Mount Sinai.

Participation by BIPOC patients in all cancer clinical trials has traditionally been very low. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently reported that only 4 percent of clinical trial participants are Black and 5 percent are Hispanic, despite the fact that minority groups overall in the United States have both the highest death rate and shortest survival times for most cancers.

The team will work with community-based groups and community oncologists in New York City to help engage people from medically underserved communities and try to establish new standards regarding their views on cancer care and research.

The team will focus on three areas. It will work with community organizations to raise awareness about cancer research in communities where people are often told little about the latest breakthroughs in cancer treatment and research. The team will train scientists and doctors to better understand how life circumstances affect the health of certain communities, and the importance of engaging with and including a diverse group of patients in cancer research and clinical trials. It will also explore ways to better inform underrepresented patients about clinical trials, including creating a digital system that will link patients with clinical trials in the New York City area.

In engaging with cancer patients about possible clinical trials in which they might participate, the team will especially focus on breast, prostate, and liver cancers. All three cancers disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minority groups. The combination of these aims—along with the potential broad utilization of the materials and methods developed by the team—represent a breakthrough towards addressing health equity in cancer clinical trials.

Karen Hubbard, PhD, Professor of Biology at The City College of New York, will be co-leader of the team. Team members at the two additional sites are Bruce Rapkin, PhD, Associate Director of Community Outreach and Engagement at the Albert Einstein Cancer Center and professor of epidemiology and population health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Mary Beth Terry, PhD, Associate Director of Community Outreach and Engagement at Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) and professor of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.


About the Mount Sinai Health System

The Mount Sinai Health System is New York City's largest academic medical system, encompassing eight hospitals, a leading medical school, and a vast network of ambulatory practices throughout the greater New York region. Mount Sinai is a national and international source of unrivaled education, translational research and discovery, and collaborative clinical leadership ensuring that we deliver the highest quality care—from prevention to treatment of the most serious and complex human diseases. The Health System includes more than 7,200 physicians and features a robust and continually expanding network of multispecialty services, including more than 400 ambulatory practice locations throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island. The Mount Sinai Hospital is ranked No. 14 on U.S. News & World Report's "Honor Roll" of the Top 20 Best Hospitals in the country and the Icahn School of Medicine as one of the Top 20 Best Medical Schools in country. Mount Sinai Health System hospitals are consistently ranked regionally by specialty and our physicians in the top 1% of all physicians nationally by U.S. News & World Report.

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