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Special Spotlight: Caribbean American Heritage Month and Cancer Awareness Highlights

Caribbean American Month

In June, CRCHD and the rest of the country commemorate Caribbean American Heritage Month. Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer among Puerto Rican men and second killer among Puerto Rican women.

  • NCI/CRCHD grantees, Drs. Olveen Carrasquillo and Erin Kobetz, both at the Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Florida, are leading a large-scale project to test the use of a new screening method that could revolutionize the way Haitian woman and other hard-to-reach populations are screened for cervical cancer. In Miami's "Little Haiti," the enclave with the highest concentration of Haitians in the U.S., the number of Haitian women diagnosed with cervical cancer—38 per 100,000—is four times the number of all other women diagnosed with cervical cancer in the state of Florida.
  • PACHE PI, Dr. Marcia Cruz-Correa, currently heads the Gastrointestinal Oncology Program at the University of Puerto Rico Comprehensive Cancer Center (UPRCCC), the focus of which is to uncover genetic and epigenetic pathways for colorectal carcinogenesis among Hispanic patients with hereditary cancer syndromes. She and her team have discovered a link between human papillomavirus (HPV) and colorectal cancer. A 12-storey cancer hospital, part of the larger UPRCCC, is scheduled to open in April 2016, and will offer state-of-the-art cancer treatment and conduct clinical trials.
  • Another Caribbean American project—a PACHE partnership project between Puerto Rico's Ponce School of Medicine and the Moffit Cancer Center, focused on building one of the few biobanks devoted solely to Hispanic tissue.

The first week of the month is also celebrated as National Survivorship Week. African Americans continue to have lower five-year survival than whites overall (60% versus 69%) and for each stage of diagnosis for most cancer sites.

  • For a unique take on survivorship, we're highlighting the work and personal quest of K08 scholar Dr. Kurt Weiss. As a survivor of stage 4 osteosarcoma, he is pursuing osteosarcoma-related science and novel, anti-metastatic targeted therapies with a vigor and resolve that are truly unparalleled. His personal journey with cancer has shaped his goals and taught him that translational sarcoma research is both possible and essential.
  • Medical sociologist Dr. Shawna Hudson is working to find ways to make survivors more aware of the need to stay in touch with their primary care physicians and have regularly scheduled tests to check whether their cancer has returned.

CRCHD is also highlighting the importance of diverse populations participating in clinical trials and biospecimen collection. The proportion of racially/ethnically diverse adults enrolled in cancer clinical trials is not adequate or representative of the U.S. population with cancer.

In view of this, CRCHD would like to recognize the contributions of NIH/NCI-supported investigators and community health educators by highlighting their research, prevention, training, and education efforts directed at addressing cancer health disparities.

  • Biobanking is also the focus of U54 grantee Dr. Elisa Rodriguez, at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY. She has assembled a multidisciplinary team to test the feasibility of community-based approaches to engaging Latinos, African Americans, and other underserved populations in the Buffalo area in biospecimen donation for cancer research.

Visit the links below to learn more about the above topics:

Updated: 11/19/14