A “Duke-NCCU Cancer Disparities Translational Research Partnership” grant has been funded by the National Cancer Institute for four years in the amount of $2 million for two laboratory-based translational research projects.
There is a long-standing relationship between the two Durham-based institutions. North Carolina Central University is designated as an Institution Serving Underserved Health Disparity Populations and Underrepresented Students (ISUPS) and affiliated with the 17-member University of North Carolina system, and DCI is a NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The principal investigators are Steven Patierno, PhD, deputy director of Duke Cancer Institute, and Kevin Williams, PhD, an associate professor in the department of pharmaceutical sciences at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) and faculty member of the Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise at NCCU.
These pilot research projects will focus on the molecular aspects underlying the increased lethality of prostate and inflammatory breast cancer in African Americans, as well as a training program for minority graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in cancer disparities research. They will utilize nearly 25 shared resources between NCCU and Duke and the engagement of underserved minority populations across the region and state, with complementary programming emanating from NCCU, which directly serves a minority community, and DCI’s Office of Health Equity and Disparities.
Gayathri Devi, PhD, Associate Professor, Division of Surgical Sciences, and head of the Duke Inflammatory Breast Cancer Consortium will co-lead, with Williams, the project on inflammatory breast cancer; titled “Identifying genetic modifiers of Gli1/hedgehog activation in inflammatory breast cancer.”
Devi will also work with Nadine Barrett, PhD, director of the Duke Cancer Institute Office of Health Equity and Disparities, and NCCU's Carla Oldham, PhD, in developing a cancer research education program (C-REP) for minority graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in cancer disparities research. Jennifer Freedman, PhD, assistant professor, Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Medicine, will co-lead the prostate cancer project with Patierno and Rob Onyenwoke, PhD, at NCCU.
According to the 2015 Cancer Facts and Figures published by the American Cancer Society, the incidence of and mortality rates from cancer in African Americans is disproportionately high as compared to other racial and ethnic groups.
"This cancer health disparity is an extremely relevant and serious issue to the NCCU-DCI partnership, as African Americans comprise 39 percent of the population of Durham and 22 percent of the population of North Carolina," said Patierno. "Although it is well documented that socioeconomic and sociocultural factors contribute heavily to cancer health disparities, they do not fully explain the differences in cancer incidence, aggressiveness and mortality among racial and ethnic groups."