Following a five-year, $9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine today announced they will launch the nation’s largest study of African American cancer survivors to better understand disproportionately high incidence and mortality from cancer in this specific population.
Principal investigators Ann G. Schwartz, professor and deputy center director, and Terrance Albrecht, professor and associate director for population sciences at Karmanos and Wayne State, will lead the research. The Detroit Research on Cancer Survivors study will include 5,560 cancer survivors to better understand major factors impacting cancer progression, recurrence, mortality, and quality of life in African American cancer survivors.
“Disparities in cancer survivorship that disproportionately burden African Americans are the product of the complex interactions occurring among genetic and biological factors and social, behavior, and environmental factors,” says Schwartz. “It is crucial that we better understand why African Americans are often diagnosed with cancer at higher rates and why survival after that diagnosis is lower than in other populations.”
The study will focus on lung, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers, each marked by lower survival rates by African Americans than other populations. Researchers at Karmanos and Wayne State will investigate the factors that may affect cancer survival such as type of treatment, genetics, social structures, support, neighborhood context, poverty, stress, racial discrimination, literacy, quality of life, and behaviors such as smoking, alcohol use, diet, and physical activity. The study will also include 2,780 family members to help researchers understand how a cancer diagnosis affects the mental, physical, and financial health of those providing care to patients.
Researchers will collect comprehensive data through interviews with participants, information from medical records, and collect biospecimens from those who live in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties, which account for more than 70 percent of Michigan’s African American population, approximately 21,000 of whom are diagnosed with cancer every year.
Karmanos and Wayne State have a long-time partnership in conducting cancer-related research within minority populations in metro Detroit. An earlier pilot study, supported by a $400,000 grant from the GM Foundation and additional funds from Karmanos Cancer Institute, made it possible for Karmanos’ scientists to collect the data necessary to secure the NCI funding for the larger study.