A Northern Arizona University and Arizona Cancer Center collaboration seeking solutions to cancer disparities among Native Americans is receiving a $15.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.
The collaboration — the Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention — is the only partnership being funded by NCI that takes aim at the burden cancer places on Native Americans.
“This funding will support projects that all relate to cancer in some way and that are carried out by teams of researchers and students from both universities,” said Laura Huenneke, vice president for Research at Northern Arizona University and lead investigator for the NAU portion of the partnership.
NAU will receive $8.9 million and the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona will receive the remaining funds.
Projects through the institute build the skills and accomplishments of NAU researchers by providing them with collaborators and resources from the Cancer Center and contribute to scientific understanding of the causes and impacts of cancer in Arizona’s tribal communities.
“Since 2002, when the first cycle of funding began, a strong community relationship was developed with the Hopi Tribe and the Navajo and Tohono O’odham nations; these relationships now position us to develop sustainable community-based programs aimed at reducing the cancer burden,” said Louise Canfield, principal investigator, NACP Training Program.
The partnership’s premise is that a sustainable solution to cancer disparities among Native Americans must be rooted in the communities, Canfield explained.
Its efforts have resulted in 11 tribal-approved research projects on comprehensive breast and cervical cancer screening programs. The institute also helped initiate continuing education for community health-care professionals and graduate and undergraduate curricula at both universities.
Huenneke said a portion of the funding goes toward working with tribal communities to understand their priorities with respect to cancer and to use that information to design useful research and translate the results into programs that have an impact in those communities.
“These research opportunities also recruit and train talented students, especially Native American students, into careers related to cancer research, prevention and treatment,” she said.
NAU offers year-round support for research experiences for undergraduates in the cancer research laboratories.