Celebrating AA and NHPI Heritage Month and Researchers Addressing Disparities in These Communities
, by CRCHD Staff
May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) Heritage Month. In celebration of the month, we’re highlighting the work of scientists whose research aims to help reduce cancer disparities among AA and NHPI communities.
AA and PI communities in the United States have lower cancer rates than any other racial or ethnic group. However, cancer is the leading cause of death for the Asian population in the United States, and this group is disproportionately affected by cancers that stem from infections, such as liver cancer caused by hepatitis B. Gathering data about specific groups is critical for better understanding risk. Researchers — including several investigators funded by the NCI Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities (CRCHD) — are working to address these issues:
Grace X. Ma, PhD, Associate Dean for Health Disparities, Laura H. Carnell Professor in Urban Health and Population Science, and Founding Director of the Center for Asian Health at Temple University’s Katz School of Medicine
Dr. Ma co-leads a partnership between Temple University/Fox Chase Cancer Center and Hunter College. The partnership, supported by CRCHD’s Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity (PACHE) program, aims to reduce health disparities by engaging local communities and helping members of underrepresented groups build research careers. Working with community partners allows researchers to gain insights into the issues facing specific communities and subpopulations. For example, Dr. Ma’s team found that problems managing chronic hepatitis B in AA and NHPI communities are linked to a lack of knowledge about the disease. Dr. Ma says that multiple factors — especially social factors — contribute to this lack of knowledge. “Structural, systemic racism and discrimination not only have had detrimental, negative impacts on the health and overall well-being of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander populations but also have led to critical gaps in health data, resources, and programs for AA and NHPI, especially among populations in disadvantaged communities,” Dr. Ma explained.
Luis G. Carvajal-Carmona, PhD, Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Diversity, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, and Auburn Community Endowed Chair in Basic Cancer Research at the University of California, Davis
Dr. Carvajal-Carmona leads the Patient Derived Xenograft (PDX) Development and Trial Center (PDTC) at the University of California, Davis. The center, supported by NCI’s PDX Network program, is one of two PDTCs that focus on minority populations. It uses human tissue to develop animal models for use in preclinical cancer studies, particularly focused on AA and NHPI cancer patients, that could provide a rationale for supporting new early-phase clinical trials.
Rachael T. Leon Guerrero, PhD, RDN, Vice Provost of Research & Sponsored Programs and Professor of Nutrition at the University of Guam
Dr. Leon Guerrero leads a PACHE-supported partnership between the University of Hawaii Cancer Center (UHCC) and the University of Guam. The partnership has been in place for more than 20 years, working to increase cancer research leadership and capacity in Hawaii, Guam, and the United States Affiliated Pacific Islands, with the goal of promoting cancer health equity and mitigating the impact of cancer on Pacific Islander populations. Reflecting on the partnership’s work, Dr. Leon Guerrero said, “We do this because Americans of Pacific Islander ancestry are a highly underserved and vulnerable minority with a disparate cancer burden, including significant underrepresentation among cancer and biomedical researchers and health care providers, which further exacerbates the disparities.”
Candace J. Chow, PhD, MA, Director of Education Research, Office of Curriculum; Co-Director, PROMIS2U Program; and Assistant Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, at the University of Utah School of Medicine
Dr. Chow’s research examines how health care providers and medical educators think about their social identities within a context of privilege and oppression and how these social identities influence professional identity and clinical practice. Two of her current projects focus on AA health care providers. One examines how AA health care providers understand social identity, including racial and ethnic identity, and how these identities shape their interactions with patients. The second examines how Asian Americans in academic medicine understand and respond to the model minority myth. Both projects bring attention to the experiences of Asian Americans in medicine.
- The PACHE program provides institutional awards for the development of partnerships between institutions serving underserved health disparity populations and underrepresented students (ISUPS) and NCI-designated Cancer Centers (CCs). Each partnership is expected to conduct cancer and cancer health disparities research, develop and implement cancer research experiences and research education for scientists and students, and conduct outreach and disseminate cancer advances to underserved communities. Learn more about PACHE.
- The PDX (Patient-Derived Xenografts) Development and Trial Centers Research Network (PDXNet) works to test potential cancer treatments and advance them to clinical trials in humans. PDXNet includes six PDX Development and Trial Centers, two of which focus exclusively on minority populations. Learn more about PDXNet.
- American Association for Cancer Research Cancer Disparities Progress Report: The State of Cancer Health Disparities in 2022
- Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month