ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A new partnership of leading national cancer organizations met this week to discuss the current state of cancer health disparities research. The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) initiated this first-ever collaboration to guide future research that better addresses the disparities in health care access and outcomes that exist within many populations.
Some racial and ethnic minorities in the United States are more likely to develop cancer, less likely to access high-quality cancer care, and more likely to die from cancer when compared with others and with whites. The death rate for cancer among African-American males, for example, is 33 percent higher than among white males, and for African-American females, it is 16 percent higher than among white females.
“Even though great strides have been made in cancer prevention and treatment, more than 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with this terrible disease this year, and a disproportionately high burden of cancer will fall on racial and ethnic minorities, low-income and elderly populations, and the medically underserved,” said AACR Chief Executive Officer Margaret Foti, Ph.D., M.D. (h.c.). “The AACR is committed to eliminating cancer health disparities through all means possible. The organization is, therefore, privileged to join this unprecedented collaboration to develop a strategy to promote cooperation among investigators in all areas of the cancer disparities research community to make sure that cancer research counts for all patients, regardless of their race, ethnicity, age, gender, socioeconomic status, or the communities in which they live.”
Disparities also affect individuals of low socioeconomic status, particularly uninsured individuals. Even with the expansion in coverage resulting from the Affordable Care Act, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 30 million individuals will still be uninsured in 2019, making accessing quality cancer care difficult for many.
“Closing the inequality gap will not happen easily, and won’t get done if any of us goes it alone,” said American Cancer Society Chief Medical Officer Otis W. Brawley, M.D. “It will require a serious commitment, and we’re proud to join our colleagues to work together to make sure all Americans benefit from the lifesaving progress against cancer.” Joining the society in support of the effort is its nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
This week’s meeting brought together experts in clinical cancer research, epidemiology, public health, and health care policy, as well as patient advocates to review the state of the science, to discuss needs and priorities in cancer disparities research, and come to consensus on key recommendations. These recommendations will be used to inform the development of a joint AACR/ACS/ASCO/NCI statement that will describe the current state of cancer health disparities research and identify top research needs with a particular emphasis on funding priorities.
“Cancer mortality rates are decreasing for most minorities, but absolute death rates continue to be higher,” said NCI Deputy Director Doug Lowy, M.D. “It is important to understand the sources of these disparities and to study ways to reduce them. We are enthusiastic about the new partnership with ACS, AACR, and ASCO, and in pursuing its goals.”
This groundbreaking initiative will build on current research findings and provide a model for cooperation among various research groups. The participating organizations hope to reach a diverse audience, including governmental and nongovernmental funders and all members of the cancer community.
“We have made great progress in documenting disparities in cancer; however, we still face significant challenges in reducing their impact on outcomes,” said ASCO President Clifford A. Hudis, M.D., FACP. “We must move from describing the problems to more quickly identifying and implementing solutions to address the racial and economic-based disparities that continue to affect many cancer patients and families in the United States. ASCO is honored to participate in this unique partnership that will ultimately help bring higher quality cancer care to all individuals.”