American Cancer Society Funds Cancer Health Equity Research Center

The American Cancer Society awarded the University of Illinois Cancer Center a $4.08 million, four-year grant to establish the Illinois Cancer Health Equity Research Center (I-CHER C), a solutions-oriented consortium of health care researchers and clinicians charged with improving outcomes in communities disproportionately affected by cancer.

The grant includes six project awards designed to achieve sustainable reductions in cancer health disparities and diversify the scientific workforce. Participating researchers will focus on overcoming biological and social factors that contribute to poor cancer outcomes among racial and ethnic minorities addressing inequities locally to inform solutions applicable on a national level.

“As a minority-serving institution, we’ve historically benefitted from a diverse group of physicians, clinicians, scientists and researchers who have an innate understanding of health inequity and a drive to address the underlying issues,” said Cancer Center Director Jan Kitajewski, PhD. “Our mission is to provide high-quality, personalized care to patients who suffer at the intersection of systemic marginalization and heightened biological risk.”

The University of Illinois Chicago, a designated minority-serving institution, the University of Illinois Cancer Center, along with UI Health and Mile Square Health Center, a group of 14 federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), will leverage its diverse group of researchers, clinicians and patients to create equitable access to advances in cancer screening, prevention and treatment.

In addition to funding the health equity research center, the ACS grant supports six targeted projects designed to strengthen interdisciplinary science and create solutions to address the unmet needs of patients.

Clinician Scientist Development Grants

  • Keith Naylor, MD, will address colon cancer risk in Black men and provide better care by navigating patients based on their family history.
  • Patrick Smith, DDS, will develop a culturally specific method to engage Black men to get oral cancer screenings in conjunction with dental care.

Research Scholar Grants

  • Yamile Molina, PhD, will address late stage breast cancer diagnoses among Latina women related to social, biological and economic factors.
  • Pamela Ganschow, MD, aims to improve cancer screening among patients seeking primary care by focusing on genetics, family history and survivorship.
  • Kent Hoskins, MD, will improve access to clinical trials for Black women with breast cancer.

Post-doctoral Fellowship Grant

  • Chinwe Ewenighi-Amankwah, PhD, aims to understand molecular determinants of health, including the therapeutic implications of ACKR1 mutations.

The American Cancer Society awarded more than $16 million in grants to establish Cancer Health Equity Research Centers (CHERCs) at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). The inaugural cohort of institutions also includes the Arizona Board of Regents – University of Arizona, Morehouse School of Medicine and Howard University. Each institution received a four-year grant of $4.08 million.

In a press release, Dr. Karen Knudsen, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society said, “The American Cancer Society believes that everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat and survive cancer. This funding is an important step to achieving health equity, which is essential to achieving our mission and it’s a moral imperative.”

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