Associate Directors' Message: Creating solutions to address cancer disparities

Dear Members of the Cancer Center community,

Next month, on March 4-5, we are hosting the 5th Annual Cancer Disparities Symposium, themed as “Navigating Cancer Disparities: Lessons Learned and How to Move Forward.” This symposium has attracted a diverse audience as we will not only be joined by scientific and community leaders invested in the health of the Greater Cleveland metro area, but also leaders in cancer disparities research from across the country. Thank you to those who have already registered for the event. We look forward to seeing you (virtually)!

The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center is committed to cancer disparities research, aiming to eliminate the disproportionate burden of cancer experienced by certain population sub-groups. We believe it is vital that we inform ourselves on these inequalities and come together to establish solutions to promote equity for all persons whose lives are impacted by cancer diagnoses. This event provides the opportunity to do just that, and everyone has a role: researchers, clinicians, health professionals, community outreach groups, patient advocates, trainees, and community-based organizations, local government, private foundations, and commercial businesses. 

The symposium planning committee has assembled an impressive lineup of speakers, including prominent researchers, clinicians and community organizations devoted to the eradication of cancer health disparities. 

Cancer prevention and control expert Otis W. Brawley, MD will deliver the scientific keynote address. Brawley is known for his work on closing racial, economic and social disparities in prevention, detection and treatment of cancer in the United States and worldwide. After 20+ years as Chief Medical Officer at the American Cancer Society, he leads a broad interdisciplinary research effort on cancer health disparities at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Kimmel Cancer Center.

Worta McCaskill-Stevens, MD, MS will deliver the community keynote, sharing her expertise in bringing clinical trials to the community. McCaskill-Stevens is Chief of the Community Oncology and Prevention Trials Research Group, which houses the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), a community-based clinical trials network launched in 2014. McCaskill-Stevens has been recognized for her leadership, including her role in furthering the advancement of minority investigators in cancer research. 

In addition to the keynotes, a wide spectrum of topics will be addressed from groundbreaking research in COVID-19 infection among cancer patients, to the combined roles of biology and social factors that contribute to cancer outcomes, as well as the impact of clinical trials participation, and the emotional, physical and financial pains of cancer. Each session is capped with a panel discussion and will culminate in a Thought Leaders panel discussion, underscoring the collaborative nature of the event and lending an opportunity for audience questions and answers. 

Our unique academic-community poster session will feature a diverse array of topics related to both addressing broad community needs and those of populations who experience cancer disparities. 

New this year, we are excited for a session around a common reading: Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care by Dayna Bowen Matthew. Audience members will break into small groups and delve into a facilitated discussion to reflect on the common reading, lessons learned and ways we might move forward to address cancer disparities. We will end the session by coming back together as one group and sharing key discussion points from attendees.

As leaders in cancer disparities research, we are honored to be able to produce such a significant symposium. Don't miss what is sure to be an engaging couple of days of information and collaboration.

Jennifer Cullen, PhD, MPH
Associate Director for Associate Director for Cancer Population Sciences
Co-Director, Cancer Disparities Symposium

Erika Trapl, PhD
Associate Director for Community Outreach and Engagement, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center
Co-Director, Cancer Disparities Symposium