UC Davis Cancer Center awarded $4.5 million


US Rep. Doris Matsui announces new grant in Sacramento

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- UC Davis Cancer Center has received $4.48 million from the National Cancer Institute to lead a new nationwide effort aimed at reducing cancer in Asian Americans. U.S. Rep. Doris Matsui announced the grant at a press conference Wednesday morning.

"I am pleased to announce that Sacramento and UC Davis Cancer Center, with funding from the National Cancer Institute, will lead the way in reducing the toll of this disease among all Asian Americans -- from the newest Hmong immigrants, who are at high risk of cancers caused by chronic infections, to fifth- and sixth-generation Chinese and Japanese Americans, who face rapidly increasing rates of such cancers as breast and colon cancer," Matsui said.

"This grant will help make great strides in using what we have learned as to the causes behind the fast-rising numbers and work with the community to make progress against this disease and save lives."

The new grant builds on a previous NCI-funded project, known as the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training (AANCART). Also headquartered at UC Davis, AANCART was funded through the NCI's Special Populations Network and included investigators from seven other universities. The new project, which will also be called AANCART, is funded through the NCI's Community Networks Program. As such, the new project will take a much more community-based, participatory approach to addressing health disparities.

The new project unites cancer-control experts from the California Department of Health Services, UCSF, UCLA, the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/University of Washington in Seattle, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard University in Boston with two community groups, the Sacramento-based Hmong Women's Heritage Association and the San Francisco Medical Society Foundation/Chinese Community Health Plan.

In addition to the $4.48 million in NCI funding, UC Davis and other project participants are contributing another $400,000 in new or in-kind support for the effort.

"Asian Americans have long been overlooked in cancer-prevention efforts," said U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, whose district includes UC Davis. "Winning this major grant, in today's highly competitive federal grants climate, is a credit to UC Davis and the other participating institutions. This is an important step toward one of our most important public health goals -- eliminating ethnic disparities in cancer and other diseases."

Over the next five years, the project will focus on:

  • reducing the unequal and preventable burden of hepatitis B-induced liver cancer in Asian Americans by increasing hepatitis B immunization rates in children and screening rates in adults.
  • improving breast and cervical cancer screening rates among Asian American women, who are among the least likely to get Pap tests and mammograms.
  • encouraging Asian Americans to retain the traditionally low-fat, vegetable-based diets common in Asian countries and resist pressures to adopt the higher-fat American diet.
  • increasing the rates of colorectal cancer screening among Asian Americans.

Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Korean and Vietnamese communities in Seattle, San Francisco, Honolulu, Los Angeles and Sacramento will be the populations of special emphasis. Investigators will focus on building relationships with grassroots organizations, arming them with information and strategies that can reduce cancer risks and rates in their communities.

"This new grant is a godsend," said K.W. Lee, 77, a survivor of liver and stomach cancer who lost both his parents and every one of his six siblings to hepatitis B-induced liver disease. "Since my liver transplant in 1992, I have encountered so many wretched fellow immigrants who have lost their lives, when they should be enjoying the fruits of their lifelong hard work in their golden years. This grant means new hope for high-risk newcomers from Asia, and it will empower grassroots neighborhood groups, churches and service agencies to save many thousands of lives from preventable and unnecessary disease." Lee, an award-winning Korean American journalist, lives in Sacramento.

Recent data suggest that while Asian Americans have a relatively low risk of cancer overall, their cancer death rate is climbing faster than that of any other racial group. In addition, they suffer disproportionately from several forms of the disease. Asian Americans are more than five times as likely as whites to die of liver cancer, for example, and on an aggregate basis, Asian Pacific Islander women over age 40 have the lowest mammogram screening rates in the country. In some Asian groups, the incidence of cervical cancer is as much as five times that of whites.

"With our first project, we were able to document that with respect to cancer awareness and cancer control, Asian Americans are not 'hard-to-reach' -- they are hardly reached," said Moon Chen, Jr., professor of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis and principal investigator of the new grant and is one of the nation's foremost investigators into the cancer burden of ethnic minority groups. "In this project, we will tailor interventions specifically to Asian Americans through linguistically appropriate and culturally competent means, and apply what we have learned to reduce the unique, unusual and Americans unnecessary cancer burden affecting Asian Americans."

Asian American community leaders greeted the new grant as good news. Jerry Chong, chief legal counsel for the Sacramento-based organization CAPITAL (Council of Asian Pacific Islanders for Advocacy and Leadership), says the grant and its predecessor unite the Asian community against a common foe, cancer.

"Dr. Chen and his fellow investigators are to be commended for their visionary leadership and innovative approach in connecting with the entire API community," Chong said. "The new grant is a medical treasure to the Asian American community."

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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