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Graham A. Colditz Honored with AACR Distinguished Lectureship on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities

PHILADELPHIA – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has announced Graham A. Colditz, MD, DrPH, MPH, as the recipient of the 2021 AACR Distinguished Lectureship on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities. Colditz will present his award lecture during the opening session of the virtual 14th AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. His lecture is titled “Making progress, together: An inclusive, broad-based approach to reducing excess burden of breast cancer among African American women in St. Louis – with lessons for national implementation.”

This AACR lectureship recognizes an investigator whose novel and significant work has had or may have a far-reaching impact on the etiology, detection, diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of cancer health disparities.

Colditz is the Niess-Gain Professor of Surgery, professor of medicine, and associate director of prevention and control for the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center; and deputy director for the Institute for Public Health at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. He is also the chief of the Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine. As an internationally recognized leader in cancer prevention and epidemiology, he is being honored for his contributions to translating epidemiological studies to reduce cancer health disparities. He is also being recognized for facilitating significant reductions in late-stage breast cancer diagnoses in Black women by pursuing the identification of genetic drivers that contribute to aggressive breast cancer subtypes in this population.

He currently leads the Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center, which, under his leadership, has become a national model of community engagement and institutional change to address ongoing health disparities. Historically, Black women in St. Louis were more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer compared to white women. Through outreach, education, screening support, and the monitoring of underrepresented minority enrollment in clinical trials, the program has resulted in the significant reduction of late-stage breast cancer diagnoses among Black women in St. Louis, from more than 30 percent in 1999 to 14 percent today. This rate is similar to the percentage of late-stage diagnoses among white women in St. Louis. Colditz has since expanded this program to other underserved areas, while adapting the breast cancer program to address other cancer types.

In addition to these groundbreaking efforts to address access to care inequities, Colditz has led numerous scientific investigations to understand the underlying basis for increased breast cancer risk in young Black women. His research has found that, compared to white women, Black women are at an increased risk of developing hormone receptor-negative and other aggressive subtypes of breast cancer following initial detection of benign lesions. He has also reported that although treatment approaches to ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) are equally accessed by Black and white patients in Missouri, Black women present with significantly higher rates of invasive breast cancer in the 10 years following a DCIS diagnosis.

Earlier in his career, Colditz focused on the preventable causes of chronic disease. His influential research highlighted the association of estrogen and progestin hormone combination therapy with increased breast cancer incidence and mortality. Additionally, his seminal research findings indicating that more than 50 percent of cancers could be prevented by acting on modifiable risk factors such as diet, exercise, weight, and smoking habits has informed public health discussions, health policy, and health care implementation.

Colditz has been a member of the AACR since 1996. He is currently a member of the program committee for the AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved. Since 2018, he has also been a member of the AACR Molecular Epidemiology Working Group and the AACR Minorities in Cancer Research constituency group. Previously, Colditz served on the steering committees for the inaugural AACR Cancer Disparities Progress Report (2018-2020) and the AACR Cancer Progress Report 2017, and as a member of the AACR Think Tank on Cancer Health Disparities (2018). He was also cochair of the AACR Special Conference on Improving Cancer Risk Prediction for Prevention and Early Detection (2016) and member of various AACR committees, including the AACR Outstanding Investigator Award for Breast Cancer Research committee (2015-2017); Breast Cancer Research Foundation-AACR Grants for Translational Cancer Research committee (2013-2014); AACR Award for Lifetime Achievement in Cancer Research committee (2012-2014); AACR-Minorities in Cancer Research Jane Cooke Wright Lectureship Committee (2011-2012); and AACR Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Award committee (2007-2008). Other AACR awards Colditz has received include the AACR Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cancer Prevention Research (2014), the AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention (2012), and the AACR-DeWitt S. Goodman Memorial Lectureship (2003).

Other notable awards include the American College of Epidemiology’s Lilienfeld Award (2020), Daniel P. Schuster Award for Distinguished Work in Clinical and Translational Science (2018), Newington Medal (2014), ASCO-American Cancer Society Award and Lecture for Significant Contributions in Cancer Prevention (2014), American Society of Preventive Oncology Distinguished Achievement Award (2004), and the Fulbright Postgraduate Student Award (1981-1982).

Colditz was elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2018 and as a member of the National Academy of Medicine in 2006. He serves on the Board of Scientific Advisors of the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health Council of Councils.

Colditz earned his medical and undergraduate degrees from the University of Queensland School of Medicine in Brisbane, Australia, and master’s and doctoral degrees in public health from the Harvard University School of Public Health. He is also a fellow of the Australian Faculty of Public Health Medicine of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.

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