$15 million grant spurs cancer collaboration; M. D. Anderson, University of Puerto Rico

November 20, 2002

HOUSTON -- A $15 million award sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the Minority Institution Cancer Center Partnership, will fund a collaborative research program between The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and The University of Puerto Rico Cancer Center.

"Research is a vital component in M. D. Anderson's mission to eliminate cancer throughout the world," said Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D., executive vice president and chief academic officer at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. "It's important that we take that research out into the world, beyond the center's walls, to fulfill that mission. Our new relationship with The University of Puerto Rico Cancer Center is an important step in conducting research that not only applies to a specific population, but may be applicable to cancer patients in general."

The five-year grant will focus on research and other areas including diversity training, physician education and community outreach. The first research projects will address the molecular epidemiology of head and neck cancer, breast cancer and acute promelocytic leukemia.

"These activities will enhance cancer research capability and address the burden of cancer in minority populations, particularly Hispanics," says Gabriel Lopez-Berestein, M.D., principal investigator and professor of bioimmunotherapy at M. D. Anderson. "Findings from this research may enable us to develop ethnic-specific cancer prevention strategies in addition to allowing minority fellows and graduate students from both institutions the opportunity to be involved in multidisciplinary research."

Researchers from M. D. Anderson and Puerto Rico will visit the collaborating cancer center to present ideas for potential projects. Colleagues with similar interests are then partnered to address a particular disparity. Researchers communicate through regular videoconferences from more than 2,000 miles away to offer updates, implement new strategies and stimulate additional project ideas. One of the goals of this comprehensive cross-training program is to increase the number of Hispanic students interested in research careers.

"This collaboration allows PRCC faculty to be on the inside of the latest medical techniques and technology, while M. D. Anderson faculty open a new door to dealing with cancer-related issues in the Hispanic population," says Harry R. Gibbs, M.D., vice president of institutional diversity at M. D. Anderson. "This team effort allows both institutions to learn from the successes of the other, and lays the building blocks for developing more advanced therapies for patients with cancer.

"By learning from physicians already treating patients in Hispanic populations, we will increase our own sensitivity to minority needs," continues Gibbs. "It is our hope that this collaboration not only will improve our level of patient care, but will be the beginning of many long-term partnerships with cancer centers across the nation and the world."

The NCI and the MICCP work as partners by creating opportunities for training, research and outreach by focusing on the importance of detecting cancer early among ethnic minority groups, improving cancer control and prevention within minority and underserved populations and designing support programs aimed at reducing racial and ethnic disparities in cancer incidence and survivorship.
-end-


University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

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