$400,000 grant to address breast cancer disparities in Latina women

$400,000 grant to address breast cancer disparities in Latina women

March 16, 2009
Contact: Ilya Sloan (520) 626-6401

TUCSON, Ariz. - Researchers at the Arizona Cancer Center have been awarded a $404,709 grant from Susan B. Komen For The Cure to fund a post-graduate training program that will study breast cancer disparities in Mexican and Mexican-American women.

Hispanic women are often diagnosed at an earlier age and with more aggressive tumors that result in a higher mortality rate. But little population-specific information exists on their risk or susceptibility factors, or if those factors are related to the types of breast tumors they get. The lack of knowledge about breast cancer in this population results in a poor understanding of how to treat it and thus poor outcomes for patients.

“The ELLA Binational Breast Cancer Study is a first-of-its kind to compare the breast cancer in women of Mexican ancestry on both sides of the US/Mexico border. We hope to understand more about what puts these women at risk for specific types of breast cancer,” said Elena Martínez, principal investigator.

The grant will fund three post-graduate researchers for two years, with potential for a third year renewal, from different scientific backgrounds who demonstrate an interest in breast cancer disparities research. The trainees will work on a study led by Elena Martínez, PhD, director of the Arizona Cancer Center Health Disparities Institute and professor in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona, and Patricia Thompson, PhD, research assistant professor in the UA’s College of Public Health. The study will focus on recognizing the differences in tumor markers in Mexican and Mexican-American women and identifying the important factors – lifestyle, genetic or environmental – that influence disease presentation and outcome in those populations.

The trainees will also work across different scientific disciplines – epidemiology, genetics, pathology, molecular biology and disparities research – to become familiar with breast cancer across different racial/ethnic groups and develop research, analytic and scientific skills to effectively conduct research in breast cancer disparities and translate findings into public health practice.

The study will use the existing resources in the ELLA Binational Breast Cancer Study, funded by the National Cancer Institute and the Avon Foundation to better understand breast cancer in women of Mexican descent. “The ELLA study represents an invaluable and unique resource to conduct training in breast cancer disparities given that few studies like it exist in or outside the U.S.,” said Thompson, co-principal investigator.

As the population of people of Hispanic origin in the U.S. increases, so does the need to better understand and serve their health needs. It is clear that a better understanding of the specific types of breast tumors arising in Hispanic women is needed and will improve treatment and decrease deaths in this population. The research and training made possible by this grant will take an important step toward addressing the breast cancer disparity in Hispanic women.

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