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Each day, 3,400 people in the United States are diagnosed with cancer and another 1,500 die from the disease. And although these numbers are disturbing, they also harbor a fundamental inequity: cancer affects certain groups—minorities, the medically underserved, people with low income or education levels, and those who live in rural areas—at a disproportionately high rate. 

A new $4.27 million, five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute will enable Washington University researchers at the Siteman Cancer Center’s Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities (PECaD) to extend their work to eliminate racial and economic gaps in cancer care. 

PECaD was one of 23 organizations selected to receive a Community Networks Program Center grant from the National Cancer Institute in 2010. The grant will enable the program to broaden its community-based outreach, research and training programs to southeastern Missouri and St. Clair County, Ill., as well as strengthen its activities in St. Louis City and north St. Louis County in Missouri. 

Focus on these areas is based on poverty levels, limited access to cancer screening and prevention services, excess cancer incidence or mortality and expressed community interest. Missouri is ranked 12th in the nation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for total cancer mortality, and PECaD’s focus areas have some of the highest cancer mortality rates in the state. 

“This new funding gives us a wonderful opportunity to build on what we have learned to date about ways to address cancer disparities in St. Louis,” says Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, associate director of prevention and control at Siteman. “Our community engagement has continued to strengthen over the past five years, and we look forward to working with our partners to achieve important advances in reducing cancer disparities in the coming years.” 

PECaD was established in 2003 in response to an excess cancer burden within the region and the state, particularly for minority and medically underserved populations. Its strategy is to partner with local community organizations to spread the word about cancer risks, screening options, funding programs and referral centers in nonthreatening ways. This grassroots model is one of the most successful efforts in the country at reducing cancercare disparity. PECaD also has successfully increased minority participation in clinical trials at Siteman.
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