Progress and Promise Against Cancer Focuses on Cancer Health Disparities in Atlanta

In conjunction with the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Annual Meeting 2019, the AACR held a day of conversation and education for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers in the Atlanta community on March 30, 2019. The AACR collaborated with Morehouse School of Medicine as host of the event and worked together to create a dynamic and informative program which brought together national and local cancer experts, patient advocates, and community groups to discuss cancer research with a focus on cancer health disparities.

To ensure that the impact of Progress and Promise Against Cancer reaches beyond those in attendance, highlights and recordings of the program can be viewed below:

After an introduction by Morehouse School of Medicine President and Dean Valerie Montgomery Rice, MD, FACOG, the program started with the day’s host, AACR President-Elect Elaine R. Mardis, PhD, who gave a brief overview on the current state of cancer research.

Brian M. Rivers, PhD, MPH, director of the Cancer Health Equity Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine, addressed cancer health disparities and their impact on cancer prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and caregiving.

Angie Patterson, an alum of the AACR Scientist-Survivor Program, and vice president of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education, brought a patient perspective on cancer research to the conversation. She spoke about her own journey with breast cancer.

The first panel of the day featured a discussion of clinical trials and how they propel progress against cancer. Moderated by Leah Fleming, a radio host with 88.5 GPB Atlanta, the panelists included AACR members Alex A. Adjei, MD, PhD, of the Mayo Clinic; Walter J. Curran Jr., MD, FACR, FASCO, of Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University; and Shafiq A. Khan, PhD, of Clark Atlanta University, along with Mardis.

Next, James W. Lillard, PhD, MBA, Associate Dean for Research at Morehouse School of Medicine, along with Rivers, held a Fireside Chat to discuss the AACR-Morehouse 2020 by 2020 Initiative. This initiative aims to perform genomic sequencing of both tumor and normal tissue from 2,020 consented African-American cancer patients, and aggregate it with clinical data from the patients, by the year 2020, in order to improve the understanding of cancer outcomes in this medically underserved population.

To help patients conceptualize what it means to enroll in a clinical trial, Roland Matthews, MD, FACOG, of Morehouse School of Medicine and AACR Scientist-Survivor Advocate Kimberly Richardson demonstrated how physicians and patients can discuss their clinical trial options and what patients can ask to learn more and make an informed decision about participation.

While most of the program focused on the researcher and patient perspective, the next speaker served as a caregiver for his wife, who died after being diagnosed with lung cancer. Chris Draft is an NFL Ambassador and international cancer advocate who spoke about being an advocate for oneself and others, while sharing how everyone can make an impact on their health and the health of their community every day.

The final session brought together AACR experts in cancer prevention to educate attendees on the importance of a healthy lifestyle including smoking cessation and proper vaccinations. Moderator Leah Fleming again joined the panelists, Kimlin Tam Ashing, PhD, of City of Hope; Susan M. Gapstur, PhD, MPH, of the American Cancer Society, and Electra D. Paskett, PhD, of The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center as they discussed how taking these steps can reduce one’s risk of cancer.

A number of cancer organizations were present in the event’s cancer resource exhibit area, providing educational material to support the patients, caregivers, and advocates who attended.

As the first and largest cancer research organization in the world, the AACR is proud to offer public education programs like Progress and Promise Against Cancer. Through this education, as well as research, communication, collaboration, funding, and advocacy, the AACR will continue to advance its mission of preventing and curing all cancers.