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Montefiore and Einstein Receive $3.4 Million NIH Grant for Cancer Clinical Trials

Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care and Albert Einstein Cancer Center to Focus on Minority and Underserved Communities

September 29, 2014—(BRONX, NY) — Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care (MECCC) and Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have been awarded a $3.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to conduct multi-site cancer clinical trials and research focused on reducing healthcare disparities in cancer care. The award is through the newly established NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), a national network of investigators, cancer care providers, academic institutions and other organizations that will conduct research to improve cancer diagnosis, treatment and management, particularly in minority and underserved communities.

Montefiore-Einstein has been selected as one of 12 NCORP Minority/Underserved Clinical Sites. Montefiore, a premier academic medical center, will leverage its strengths in integrated patient care and innovative healthcare delivery systems serving minority and underserved patient populations. Albert Einstein Cancer Center (AECC), an NCI-designated center for 43 years, has been recognized as a leader in basic and clinical cancer research and population-based studies that address the causes of cancer. The NCORP research will be conducted within two AECC research programs: the Experimental Therapeutics Program, which coordinates cancer clinical research activities at Montefiore, and the Cancer Epidemiology Program, which includes cancer prevention and control research.

The program will be conducted at MECCC and directed by three investigators: Joseph Sparano, M.D., professor of medicine and of obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein, vice chairman of medical oncology, MECCC and associate director of clinical research at AECC, will lead efforts in cancer therapeutics; Mark Einstein, M.D., M.S., professor and director of oncology research in the department obstetrics & gynecology and women’s health at Einstein and vice chair of research for these departments at MECCC, will oversee cancer prevention; and Bruce Rapkin, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology & population health at Einstein and MECCC, will focus on cancer control and delivery.

“The burden of cancer is not equally distributed in this country,” said Dr. Einstein. “Men and women of color have the highest incidence and death rates from cancer than any other group. They tend to be diagnosed later in the course of their disease and have less access to well-established preventative and treatment measures. We will help change that.” Dr. Einstein’s research focus is on the prevention of cervical cancer due to human papillomavirus infection and the treatment of gynecologic malignancies.

“Albert Einstein Cancer Center has played a key leadership role in therapeutic cancer trials and has received funding from NCI for nearly four decades to support its role as a main member institution of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group,” said Dr. Sparano. “The NCORP funding will support expanding activities in the areas of cancer prevention, cancer control and cancer care delivery research.”  

In addition to leading cancer clinical research at Montefiore-Einstein, Dr. Sparano has focused on enhancing the access of minority populations to cancer clinical trials as an essential component of contemporary cancer care. “Cancer mortality rates are declining rapidly as a result of improved treatment, screening and prevention, but improvements have lagged in minority populations,” added Dr. Sparano. “Clinical trials have provided a foundation for much of this improvement. The NCORP mechanism will allow us to integrate new approaches that may address this disparity.” 

Montefiore was recently recognized by Essence magazine for its services aimed at decreasing healthcare disparities among minority and underserved populations.

“Not only does quality cancer care need to be available to minority and underserved groups, but we need to remove other barriers to access, such as improving health literacy and knowledge of preventative measures,” said Dr. Rapkin. “We will continue to tap into our existing partnerships in the Bronx, Harlem and Queens to tease out the issues and develop ways to address them.” Dr. Rapkin is a psychologist whose research focuses on developing community interventions around cancer and improving the quality of life of medically underserved individuals and communities.

“One of the most exciting aspects of the NCORP enterprise is the development of new partnerships with Montefiore's Care Management Organization, community physician networks, including NYC RING, the MECCC Community Oncology Network, and North Bronx Health Care Network,” said Dr. Rapkin. These partnerships will be led by Dr. Melissa McKee, director of NYC RING, Fernando Camacho, M.D., chief of community oncology at MECCC, and Dr. Richard Gralla, director of clinical research in the North Bronx Health Care Network. 

The five-year grant (1UG1CA189859), titled Minority-based Community Oncology Research Program, is funded by the National Cancer Institute.