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Montefiore in the News

June 7, 2023

Grant Supports Cancer Investigators to Conduct Clinical and Translational Research, with a Focus on Health Equity 

June 7, 2023—BRONX, NY—The National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center (MECC) has received a five-year, $2.9 million grant from the NCI to train physicians and scientists to conduct clinical and translational oncology research, with a special emphasis on investigating and addressing health inequities in the Bronx. The funding, part of the Paul Calabresi Career Development Award for Clinical Oncology (PCACO), will support up to four scholars for two to three years. 

“The Bronx is home to a diverse, dynamic, and resilient community, and needs customized treatments that are tailored to our unique patient population,” said Amit Verma, M.D., MECC associate director of translational science, director of the division of hemato-oncology in the department of oncology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Health System, and co-principal investigator on the grant. “This award will help us train scholars committed to identifying and addressing racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic cancer disparities and inequities and conducting research in one of the most racially and ethnically diverse communities in the U.S. This not only bolsters MECC’s ability to provide the most scientifically advanced care for our patients, but will help other NCI cancer centers with similar patient populations and challenges.” 

A Diverse Training Environment

MECC provides a unique opportunity for scholars interested in training at an NCI-designated cancer center and conducting research with patients from historically marginalized communities. The Bronx, which is 56% Hispanic/Latino and 35% Black, includes one of the poorest districts in the U.S. 

To help advance cancer equity, MECC researchers focus on: identifying cancer disparities and their causes, developing treatments for conditions that disproportionately affect the Bronx, and improving cancer screening and care delivery in the borough. The K12 Calabresi grant will allow scholars to build on MECC’s significant studies, including the first report of advanced immunotherapy (CAR-T therapy) outcomes in Black and Hispanics, the first genomic report of Black patients with colon cancer, the first study to identify a pro-metastatic cellular mechanism that contributes to poorer outcomes for Black women with breast cancer, and identifying clinical and socioeconomic factors that predict treatment delays across cancer types. 

In addition to mentorship from faculty that span the entire spectrum of cancer-focused research, the MECC training program offers a formal curriculum in part through the National Institutes of Health-supported Block Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at Einstein and Montefiore, which includes a special emphasis on overcoming barriers to providing care in underrepresented minority communities. Scholars will engage in interdisciplinary research projects that integrate community outreach and engagement, ensuring local input in determining study goals, design, and recruitment. 

Diversifying the Cancer Workforce

MECC’s Calabresi scholars will be selected from M.D.s, M.D./Ph.D.s, and Ph.D.s who are committed to developing careers in patient-oriented clinical, translational, and population-based research. 

“We are working closely with MECC’s office of diversity, equity, and inclusion to actively identify and enroll candidates who reflect the racial and ethnic makeup of our Bronx community,” said Yvonne Saenger, M.D., co-director of the Cancer Therapeutics program and director of the Cancer Immunotherapy program at MECC, and associate professor of oncology, of microbiology & immunology, and of pathology at Einstein. “While our ultimate goal is to train the next generation of oncology scholars with specific knowledge and experience in conducting research in diverse and under-resourced areas, we are also prioritizing the diversity of our oncology workforce.” 

Since MECC received its first PACOC grant in 2010, it has enrolled 24 Scholars, 22 of whom remain committed to academic careers in oncology. The title of the grant is “Diversity-focused Montefiore Einstein Clinical Oncology Training Program in the Bronx.” (K12CA279871)