January 29, 2020—(BRONX, NY)— Montefiore, the University Hospital of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has received a $5.9 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to build on its success recruiting minority and underserved patients into cancer clinical trials and delivering the highest quality cancer care. This new grant, part of the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), is a continuation of funding first awarded in 2014.
“The most innovative cancer treatments are evaluated in clinical trials—often years before they are broadly available in clinical practices—but minorities are underrepresented in these trials,” said Joseph A. Sparano, M.D, professor of medicine at Einstein, associate director for clinical research at the NCI-designated Albert Einstein Cancer Center, and associate chairman for clinical research, oncology at Montefiore. “Our continued funding from NCI is helping us correct this disparity. This is particularly relevant for the diverse population served by Montefiore and Einstein.” Dr. Sparano is one of the principal investigators on the grant, along with Balazs Halmos, M.D, M.S., director, the Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program at Montefiore and professor, clinical medicine at Einstein, and Bruce D. Rapkin, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology & population health at Einstein and Montefiore.
One of Montefiore and Einstein’s most notable achievements supported by NCORP funding was the landmark TAILORx clinical trial. The study, which found that 70% of women with the most common type of breast cancer could safely skip chemotherapy, immediately changed clinical guidelines for women around the world. Dr. Sparano, who also served as chair of the TAILORx study, reported comparable findings for women of African-American and Hispanic descent within the overall study population.
In addition, Haejin In, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., assistant professor of surgery and of epidemiology and population health at Einstein, and a cancer surgeon at Montefiore, is co-leading an effort to develop a cost-effective model to detect stomach cancer earlier, building on her prior research demonstrating most people with stomach cancer are diagnosed in hospital emergency departments when the disease is already too advanced to treat effectively.
Our continued funding from NCI is helping us correct this disparity. This is particularly relevant for the diverse population served by Montefiore and Einstein.
Joseph A. Sparano, M.D.
Together, Montefiore and Einstein are one of only 14 NCORP Minority/Underserved Clinical Sites, which must have a patient population of at least 30% racial/ethnic minorities or rural residents. Approximately 80% of Montefiore and Einstein clinical trial participants are minorities — compared to 8% nationwide.
NCORP trials now also include tissue collection, so researchers can study biological mechanisms, including those that prevent treatments from being effective across different racial and ethnic groups. As Dr. Halmos explains: “Having our patients, who are predominantly minorities, participate in cutting-edge clinical trials helps researchers strengthen the scientific evidence for various cancer therapies. We expect this to not only benefit our patients but improve care at hospitals and clinics worldwide.”
The goals of the Montefiore and Einstein NCORP grant are to continue recruiting patients to the clinical trial network, maintain leadership at national scientific organizations like ECOG-ACRIN that design and conduct clinical cancer research, mentor young investigators and contribute to knowledge that will address cancer health disparities.
In addition to clinical trials focused on cancer diagnosis and treatment, Dr. Rapkin is leading the charge in studying where, when and how care is delivered, otherwise known as cancer care delivery research (CCDR). Montefiore and Einstein are part of a NCORP network of more than 900 hospitals, cancer centers and oncology clinics across 39 states eligible to participate in CCDR studies.
“Cancer disparities don’t exist in a vacuum,” said Dr. Rapkin. “They span genetic, social, economic and cultural factors. By participating in NCORP, we have access to more information about what might be preventing people from getting the best care possible and a real opportunity to improve cancer prevention, treatment and survivorship care for all.”
Albert Einstein Cancer Center, a leader in basic and clinical cancer research and population-based studies, has been an NCI-designated center for almost 50 years.