Institute forms to prevent and treat cancer in rural communities

Cancer research and community outreach throughout Arizona recently received a financial boost from the National Cancer Institute.

The institute awarded a $200,000 renewable annual grant to the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona to help establish a Cancer Health Disparities Institute that will unite cancer prevention and treatment to underserved communities in Arizona.

Maria Elena Martinez, director of the institute and co-director of the Arizona Cancer Center’s prevention and control program, said the center received the funding support thanks to its work with outreach programs such as Northern Arizona University’s Native American Cancer Research Partnership.

“The institute is patterned after the structure of the Native American Cancer Research Partnership research, training and outreach,” said Louise Canfield, co-director of the new institute and co-principal investigator of the Native American Cancer Research Partnership with NAU. “We hope to sponsor new pilot programs based on the expressed needs of communities relative to cancer.”

Canfield said since Native American Research Partnership faculty are members of the Arizona Cancer Center, the disparities institute will offer additional infrastructure and resources to the faculty as well as students at NAU and UA.

“Collaborating with underserved rural communities poses a challenge due to logistics of travel and communication,” Canfield said. “However, the Native American Cancer Research Partnership has been very successful in reaching communities in northern Arizona, due in large part to the longstanding excellent relationships of our colleagues at NAU with these communities.”

The institute also will work with clinics, hospitals, health boards and other local organizations to raise awareness of prevention strategies and access to cancer healthcare for underserved communities.

The Arizona Cancer Center has research sites in Tucson, Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale and Sun City. It also has 300 physicians and scientist members working to prevent and cure cancer.