In spite of significant advances in cancer treatment, screening, diagnosis and prevention over the past several decades, not all populations have benefited equally, with some groups carrying a disproportionate cancer burden than the rest of the population. Whether characterized by socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, geograaphy or gender, understanding the basis of health disparities is essential to developing effective interventions and therapies to meet the national goal of advancing cancer health equity.
To this end, the California State University, Fullerton and the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center launched the Partnership for Cancer Health Disparities Research in 2012 to help reduce cancer health disparities in Orange County.
Funded by a four-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, the collaboration, the first of its kind between the two institutions, is led by Allan Hubbell, MD, professor emeritus of medicine, public health and nursing science at UC Irvine, and Sora Park Tanjasiri, DrPH, professor of health science and director of the Cal State Fullerton Health Promotion Research Institute.
Oversight of the partnership is provided by the Internal Advisory Committee, which includes Drs. Hubbell and Tanjasiri, key faculty leaders from CSUF and UCI, and program managers from each site.
“The overall goal is to establish a collaborative partnership that will increase cancer health disparities research at both institutions,” Hubbell said. “By doing so, the partnership will contribute to reducing—and eventually eliminating—disparities in Orange County, leading to cancer health equity.”
“Cancer is the second leading cause of death among all major ethnic groups,” Tanjasiri said, “however, the risk of developing cancer varies considerably by ethnicity.” Hispanics, for example, have higher rates of cervical cancer, stomach cancer and liver cancer than non-Hispanic whites. Non-Hispanic black males have the highest overall cancer incidence and mortality rate of any ethnic group.
The overarching goals of this partnership are to advance knowledge regarding cancer health disparities and to increase the number of investigators conducting research in cancer health disparities, which, in the long term, will together contribute to reducing and eventually eliminating those disparities.
In service of these goals, the partnership has two objectives: (1) To conduct pilot research projects in cancer health disparities co-led by investigators at each institution that will lead to submission of research proposals to NCI and other funding agencies; and (2) to provide mentorship and training in cancer health disparities research to early stage investigators and students who are involved in the pilot research projects.
The Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UC Irvine Medical Center provides fully integrated research, prevention, diagnostics, treatment and rehabilitation programs for patients and families coping with cancer. The cancer center, ranked among the nation’s best hospitals for oncology treatment by U.S. News & World Report, is Orange County’s only comprehensive cancer center—the highest designation given by the National Cancer Institute.
Cal State Fullerton’s Health Promotion Research Institute (HPRI) serves as a catalyst and focal point for research, training, and community interchange to develop and disseminate evidence-based information and health promotion programs. The institute has more than 50 faculty members from 18 departments. It consists of five affiliated centers, including the Center for Cancer Disparities Research that was established to address the increasing burden of cancer-related health disparities.