LOS ANGELES – October 7, 2021 – Stand Up To Cancer® (SU2C), Exact Sciences and Providence today announced funding for a new Dream Team dedicated to addressing colorectal cancer disparities. The SU2C Colorectal Cancer Health Equity Dream Team will receive a total of $8 million – $6 million from Exact Sciences and $2 million from Providence – for an innovative and comprehensive approach that will bring together leading researchers, patient advocates, community leaders, and clinicians to accomplish several goals, including improving colorectal cancer screening in medically underserved communities.
The Stand Up To Cancer-selected Dream Team will consist of robust screening, research, education and training efforts that will extend across the United States to establish three SU2C Zones: Greater Boston, Los Angeles, and Great Plains Tribal Communities in South Dakota. These zones, which will ideally operate long after the grant period is over, include diverse and distinct communities that are medically underserved and have particularly low screening rates for colorectal cancer, which is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in American men and women combined.[i]
“We are incredibly excited for this Dream Team’s impressive expertise and goals; their work will be vital to SU2C’s Health Equity Initiative and will also launch the creation of SU2C Zones, which we hope to extend to other communities and cancer types in the future,” said Sung Poblete, PhD, RN, CEO of SU2C. “This is truly a unique approach that will build on SU2C’s strong colorectal cancer research portfolio, serve as a blueprint for future SU2C Zones, and further our collaboration with Exact Sciences and Providence to ensure that less people are impacted by colorectal cancer, which is preventable and treatable with regular screening.”
The Dream Team’s leadership brings a deep understanding of racial/ethnic minority communities and health inequities regionally and nationally through their extensive career experience and published research. The diverse, multi-disciplinary team selected by SU2C is led by Dr. Jennifer Haas, MD, MSc, at Massachusetts General Hospital; Dr. Folasade P. May, MD, PhD, MPhil, at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Dr. Anton Bilchik, MD, PhD, MBA, FACS, at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Los Angeles. Additional team members are from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Great Plains Tribal Leaders Health Board.
Under the leadership of Dr. Haas and Dr. May, the team’s wide-ranging goals include: establishing and implementing comprehensive at-home stool-based colorectal cancer screening programs at community health centers to increase screening rates to 80% within the SU2C Zones; ensuring patients who have an abnormal stool-based screening test result receive a follow-up colonoscopy; building a collection of blood and stool samples for future research to ensure that low income and racial/ethnic minority populations are represented in the development of new screening tests and early detection methods for colorectal cancer; and fostering the careers of a new generation of Black, Latino, and American Indian doctors and researchers who embody the ideals of community engagement, trust-building and disparities research to improve health outcomes for all patients.
Additionally, under the leadership of Dr. Bilchik, Providence will design and deploy a community-based campaign to increase colorectal cancer screening rates in demographically diverse areas within Los Angeles County, CA. Providence will recruit and deploy community health action teams (CHATs) – residents trained and supported to work as health promoters and care navigators within their own neighborhoods – to implement a locally designed and operated colorectal cancer screening campaign. CHATs won’t stop with screening; they will accompany participating Providence patients along the journey from screening to treatment to survivorship.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a dramatic drop in colorectal cancer screening,” said Dr. Haas, the Peter L. Gross MD Chair in Primary Care at Massachusetts General Hospital, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “While we’ve seen some colorectal cancer screening rates rebound more recently, overall the impact of COVID-19 on Black, Indigenous and people of color is dire and compounds the low cancer screening rates and poorer cancer outcomes seen before the pandemic. Our team is committed to empowering healthcare providers who serve these communities by providing tools and strategies, as well as community engagement, to pave the way for national efforts that effectively address screening disparities across the country.”
A SU2C Colorectal Cancer Health Equity Community Engagement Grant program will roll out in the coming months to support and complement the Dream Team’s work. SU2C will provide three-year grants ranging from $5,000 – $25,000 to organizations within the SU2C Zones to develop new or implement existing community programs in colorectal cancer early detection and screening. Community engagement projects will be aligned with the Dream Team’s goal to increase screening rates to 80% in the SU2C Zones.
“Our Dream Team integrates the traditionally fragmented fields of health disparities research and health delivery research,” said Dr. May, a gastroenterologist, health equity expert, and health services researcher at the UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity and the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Integrating social science and health equity with clinical translational research will help us achieve our goals and create systems that can be utilized as models long after our grant period is over.”
Colorectal cancer incidence and deaths are highest in Black Americans, followed closely by American Indians/Alaska Natives and lowest in Asians/Pacific Islanders[ii]. People with the lowest socioeconomic status are 40% more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer than those with the highest socioeconomic status.[iii] Additionally, screening rates for Americans 50-75 years old are the lowest in American Indians/Alaska Natives (56%), followed by Asian people (58%), Hispanic people (59%), Black people (66%) and white people (69%).[iv]
The new colorectal cancer screening recommendation released in May by the United States Preventive Services Task Force lowers the screening age from 50 to 45 for individuals at average risk for colorectal cancer.[v] The USPSTF’s guidance is significant because it is followed by doctors, insurance companies and policymakers.
“Lowering the colorectal cancer screening age to 45 is an important step as we look to save more lives from this preventable cancer,” said Dr. Bilchik, professor of surgery and chief of the Gastrointestinal Research Department at the Providence Saint John’s Cancer Institute. “But given the disproportionate impact on medically underserved communities, raising awareness for colorectal cancer and screening options remains critical. This team has a tremendous opportunity to create solutions that can be used as national models for integrated colorectal cancer outreach and screening.”
The Dream Team will collaborate with community health centers in the SU2C Zones.
- In Boston, where 18.9% of the population lives below the poverty line, screening participants will come from community health centers affiliated with Mass General Brigham.[vi] These centers serve a high percentage of Black, Latino, Asian and multi-racial people including immigrants and refugees.
- In Los Angeles, the most populous county in the US with 13.4% of the population living below the federal poverty level, screening participants will come from several health centers, including four St. John’s Well Child and Family Center clinics in South and East Los Angeles.[vii] Screening participants will also originate from faith-based congregations in Baldwin Village and from community health centers in Santa Monica who frequently partner with Providence Saint John’s Health Center in community health initiatives.
- The Great Plains Tribal Communities in South Dakota include five of the ten poorest counties in the US; the community is low-income and un- or underinsured.[viii] The area is home to over 130,000 American Indian people, with a total of 26 federally recognized tribes. Screening participants will come from one of two Great Plains American Indian/Tribal Healthcare facilities.
“This Dream Team’s goals are bold and ambitious, and that’s just the kind of effort needed as we work to increase colorectal cancer screenings in general, and especially in light of the drop in screening due to the pandemic,” said Paul Limburg, MD, MPH, Chief Medical Officer for Screening at Exact Sciences. “Our collaboration with SU2C is truly pushing the boundaries to ensure that we approach colorectal cancer screening in a way that has a direct and positive impact on the communities that need it most.”
SU2C joined forces with Exact Sciences in December 2020 to propel colorectal cancer screening awareness and research, with a public awareness campaign launched in March 2021 during Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. SU2C then added Providence to its campaign in May of 2021, with the plan to scale this effort in the more than 50 communities Providence serves throughout the Western United States.
“Colorectal cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer when detected early. With this Dream Team, we have the opportunity to improve outcomes for those who are disproportiately affected by the disease and give all members of our communities the chance to prevent, diagnose and treat it before it’s too late. This is a remarkable team effort, and Providence is proud to be part of it,” said Amy Compton-Phillips, MD, president and chief clinical officer for Providence.
SU2C began formalizing its Health Equity Initiative in 2017 with the goal of increasing diverse participation in cancer clinical trials. As a part of the initiative, all SU2C-supported research grant proposals must address recruitment and retention of racially and ethnically diverse patients in cancer clinical trials. The initiative also emphasizes team research focused on cancer disparities, with the SU2C Health Equity Breakthrough Team announced in March and more health equity-focused teams to come in 2021.
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Mirabai Vogt-James Cara Connelly Samantha Desmarais
Stand Up To Cancer Exact Sciences Providence
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About Stand Up To Cancer
Stand Up To Cancer® (SU2C) raises funds to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. SU2C, a division of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, was established in 2008 by media and entertainment leaders who utilize these communities’ resources to engage the public in supporting a new, collaborative model of cancer research, to increase awareness about cancer prevention, and to highlight progress being made in the fight against the disease. As of August 2021, more than 2,000 scientists representing more than 210 institutions are involved in SU2C-funded research projects.
Under the direction of our Scientific Advisory Committee, led by Nobel laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., SU2C implements rigorous competitive review processes to identify the best research proposals to recommend for funding, oversee grants administration, and ensure collaboration across research programs.
Current members of the SU2C Founders and Advisors Committee (FAC) include Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Kathleen Lobb, Lisa Paulsen, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz, Pamela Oas Williams, and Ellen Ziffren. The late Laura Ziskin and the late Noreen Fraser were also co-founders. Sung Poblete, Ph.D., R.N., serves as SU2C’s CEO, and Russell Chew as SU2C’s President.
About Exact Sciences Corp.
A provider of cancer screening and diagnostic tests, Exact Sciences pursues solutions providing the information to take life-changing action, earlier. Exact Sciences is investing in its product pipeline to take on some of the deadliest cancers and improve patient care. Exact Sciences unites collaborators to help advance the fight against cancer. For more information, please visit the company’s website at www.exactsciences.com, follow Exact Sciences on Twitter @ExactSciences, or find Exact Sciences on Facebook.
Providence is a national, not-for-profit Catholic health system comprising a diverse family of organizations and driven by a belief that health is a human right. With 52 hospitals, over 1,000 physician clinics, senior services, supportive housing, and many other health and educational services, the health system and its partners employ more than 120,000 caregivers serving communities across seven states – Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, with system offices in Renton, Wash., and Irvine, Calif. Learn about our vision of health for a better world at Providence.org.
[i] American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2021.
[ii] American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2020, p. 5.
[iii] American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2020, p. 5.
[iv] American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2020, p. 23.
[v] USPSTF. Final Recommendation Statement Colorectal Cancer: Screening. Published May 18, 2021. https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/recommendation/colorectal-cancer-screening. Accessed Aug. 17, 2021
[vi] Quick Facts: Boston. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/bostoncitymassachusetts. Published 2021. Accessed Aug. 17, 2021.
[vii] Quick Facts: Los Angeles. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/losangelescountycalifornia,US/PST045219. Published 2021. Accessed Aug. 17, 2021.
[viii] 2014-2018 Poverty Rate in the US by County. https://www.census.gov/library/visualizations/interactive/2014-2018-poverty-rate-by-county.html. Published 2019. Accessed Aug. 17, 2021.