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The University of North Texas Health Science Center will be able to better reduce cancer health disparities in communities of color thanks to a new grant, UNTHSC announced on Monday.
The National Cancer Institute awarded $2.2 million to the Fort Worth-based university as a partnership with Langston University, a historically black college in Langston, Oklahoma. About 40 students from Langston will be matched with UNTHSC researchers and will work on two research projects.
“The goal is for a cancer center like UNTHSC to stimulate not only cancer research on the Langston campus, but also disseminate and communicate cancer research and cancer prevention in the community in Langston, and to train the students in cancer research,” Dr. Jamboor Vishwanatha, the director of the Texas Center for Health Disparities, said.
Vishwanatha noted that in Texas, African-Americans have higher rates of breast and prostate cancer.
While this aligns with national cancer trends, these two types of cancer will be the focus of the research over the course of the four-year grant. Langston students will work with researchers to understand how breast cancer cells grow on the lungs and what technologies are available to prevent this growth.
The second project will look for the signals and molecules that cause prostate cancer to spread to other parts of the body.
Vishwanatha said that localized prostate cancer is curable but not if it spreads to other areas.
UNTHSC’s Texas Center for Health Disparities is designated as a Center of Excellence by the National Institutes of Health in dealing with health disparities. It’s also a member of the National Research Mentoring Network to increase diversity in the health and healthcare workforces.
In addition to training students and conducting cancer research, the partnership is meant to educate the local populations in both cities about the efforts and cancer prevention.
“Disparities are multidimensional. Access to healthcare could lead to disparities. If there’s no early diagnosis, that could lead to disparities ... our job is to look at the factors that contribute to health disparities,” Vishwanatha said. “A lot of them can be solved at the local level, some of them might need to be at the policy level. We chose those two projects based on the immediate needs of those communities.”