Arizona Cancer Center Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention awarded $15.7 million

Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention logo
Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 2, 2009
Contact: Ilya Sloan, Arizona Cancer Center, (520) 626-6401
Lisa Nelson, Northern Arizona University, (928) 523-6123

TUCSON, Ariz. – The Arizona Cancer Center Health Disparities Institute’s Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention (NACP) in conjunction with its partner - Northern Arizona University (NAU) - has been awarded a $15.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to continue developing sustainable solutions to cancer disparities among Native Americans. The Arizona Cancer Center will receive $6.7 million, and NAU will receive $8.9 million.

NACP, begun in 2002, focuses on community partnership and involvement with the Hopi Tribe, Navajo and Tohono O’odham Nations. The premise of NACP is that a sustainable solution to cancer disparities among Native Americans must be rooted in the communities. However, many factors – from communication and infrastructure challenges in remote rural communities, to low rates of Native American representation in university and medical institutions, to the challenge of culturally-appropriate communication – make it a difficult and time-consuming process to build appropriate connections with 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 NACP to develop sustainable community-based programs aimed at reducing the cancer burden,” said Louise Canfield of the Arizona Cancer Center, principal investigator, NACP Training Program.

“This is the only partnership funded by the National Cancer Institute aimed at the huge burden that cancer places on Native Americans,” said Laura Huenneke, vice president for Research at Northern Arizona University and lead investigator for the NAU portion of the partnership.

The partnership’s efforts have resulted in 11 tribal-approved research projects with the Hopi Tribe, Navajo and Tohono O’odham Nations on comprehensive breast and cervical cancer screening programs. Also initiated is continuing education for community healthcare professionals and institutionalized graduate and undergraduate educational curricula at both universities.

“Not only do these projects contribute to the scientific understanding of the causes and impacts of cancer in Arizona’s tribal communities, they enable us to recruit talented students, especially Native American students, into careers related to cancer research, prevention and treatment,” Huenneke said.

Specifically, Canfield noted, “Of the 153 students who have participated in NACP training and research programs, 106 are Native American. Fifty-three of these participated actively in one of eight research programs; 13 are currently working in cancer research or health care; and 10 are pursing advanced degrees. In collaboration with the Indian Health Service, a ‘virtual’ colon cancer screening program was initiated in remote areas of the Navajo Nation. These accomplishments have been possible due to the collaboration of the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University,” Canfield said.

David Alberts, MD, director of the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona, and Laura Huenneke, PhD, vice president of research at Northern Arizona University are the co-principal investigators of the grant.

For more information, contact: Jennifer Prissel at AZCC (520) 626-7209 or Maria Mitchell at NAU (928) 523-8383. For more information about NACP, visit http://nacrp.web.arizona.edu