RPCI Faculty Receive $8.5 Million In Disparities Grants From Federal Agencies

Monday, May 23, 2011

BUFFALO, NY — Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) faculty members have received recent grants supporting important work in breast and prostate-cancer research in specific populations. Each of these four grants from federal agencies supports work that fulfills the mission of the Office of Cancer Health Disparities Research — to understand, reduce, eliminate and prevent cancer disparities in vulnerable and medically underserved populations and patients through transdisciplinary research and programs.

The grants include awards to fund the following research projects:

  • Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Chair, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control, and Michael Higgins, PhD, Associate Member, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, have received a $3.89 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study breast cancer in African-American women. Theywill investigate a potential reason why African-American women are more likely to get breast cancer at a younger age and have more aggressive and difficult-to-treat tumors, compared to white women — despite having a lower incidence of breast cancer than white women. One path they will explore is looking at gene methylation to determine whether methylation patterns are associated with high-grade or aggressive tumors and whether patterns are different between African-American and white women.
  • Willie Underwood III, MD, MPH, MSci, Associate Professor, Department of Urology at RPCI, and Heather Orom, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, have received a $3.1 million award from the National Cancer Institute. This multicenter R01 grant is aimed at identifying the underlying causes of racial differences in prostate-cancer treatment and post-treatment regret. “Black men are more than twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than white men,” says Dr. Underwood, “and much of this difference is attributable to differences between the two groups in receiving definitive or potentially curative care.” Dr. Underwood plans to identify the factors that influence the treatment decisions for both white men and black men and assess the differences in the distress and regret they experience over their treatment decisions. “Little is known about the factors that lead to the breakdown in the treatment decision-making process for black men,” he says. “This knowledge is needed to design and implement interventions to reduce the racial gaps in prostate-cancer mortality.”
  • James Mohler, MD, Professor of Oncology and Chair, Department of Urology at RPCI, has been awarded an $818,878 grant from the Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program (DoD PCRP) to explore the role of androgen receptor and androgen-regulated genes in prostate cancer. His work aims to quantify the differences in androgenic stimulation of prostate cancer in African-Americans compared to Caucasian Americans and whether these differences could explain the 2.4-fold greater mortality among African-American men with prostate cancer. This award provides for additional analysis of biospecimens collected over the last eight years during the largest population-based study ever performed of men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer — the North Carolina-Louisiana Prostate Cancer Project, which was also funded by DoD PCRP and led by Dr. Mohler.
  • Levi Ross, PhD, MPH, Assistant Member, Department of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences and faculty member of the Office of Cancer Health Disparities Research at RPCI, has been awarded a five-year, $690,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to explore ways to improve treatment decision-making support for African-American men with prostate cancer. African-American men are more likely to develop prostate cancer, and they develop the disease earlier in life, so they face treatment decisions at a higher proportion and younger age than men from other racial or ethnic groups. “Making decisions about which type of treatment to undergo, if any, is complex because most men are eligible for more than one treatment and there’s no best choice for all patients,” says Dr. Ross. “Because survival is high, regretting decisions can cause mental and emotional suffering, but being satisfied with treatment choices can greatly enhance quality of life.”

The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. RPCI, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit RPCI’s website at http://www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org.

Media Contact: 

Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager
716-845-8593; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org