Minority and Health Disparities

Diseases such as cancer do not affect all racial groups equally.  Similarly, an effective treatment in one racial group may not work in another.  Therefore, research to identify biological, genetic, and social conditions that cause these health disparities is greatly needed. 

All LCRC partners are engaged in different aspects of minority health and health disparities research, training and community outreach.  This diversity allows the LCRC to build a comprehensive focus on these important components in the search for successful preventive measures, treatment options and cures.

The LCRC partners manage two research centers aimed at addressing minority health disparities:

The Dillard-LSUHSC Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Center – Dr. John Estrada, associate professor of pediatrics, and Dr. Betty Dennis, Dean of the Dillard University School of Nursing, were granted $6.7 million dollars by the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities to study racial differences in prostate cancer and infection-associated cervical cancer along with other projects. LCRC support helped to create the Center, which was established to conduct research about minority health concerns, train under-represented minorities to conduct biomedical research, and provide educational outreach to underserved communities.

Additionally, the Center is increasing the number of qualified minority research nurses (Clinical Research Associates – CRA) in Louisiana.  One objective of this effort is to increase the access and enrollment of minority patients into clinical trials, which contributes to knowledge increasingly important in an era of personalized medicine. Clinical trials research performed on a diverse population of patients can help in the evaluation of treatment outcomes and their varying degrees of effectiveness among racial groups, as well as provide the benefit of targeted treatments that might otherwise be unavailable to underserved populations. These are essential steps in reducing health disparities.

The Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education (CMHDRE) – Headed by Dr. Leonard Jack, the CMHDRE aims “to improve health outcomes of diverse communities disproportionately impacted by health and health care disparities through community engagement and partnerships in research, education, and practice.”  CMHDRE works to coordinate existing efforts in the College of Pharmacy; develops new initiatives to promote minority health disparities research; builds capacity to conduct future clinical trials; develops necessary health information and telecommunications infrastructure; and increases the pool of under-represented minority students and faculty researchers conducting basic, clinical, and behavioral research related to cancer.

CMHDRE held its fourth health disparities conference in 2011.  Entitled, “Utilizing Interdisciplinary Strategies to Advance from Disparity to Reform,” the conference was attended by nearly 250 participants from across the country.  Conference topics included implications of health care reform on mid-level providers, the role of the mid-level provider in improving health outcomes, translating research to practice, and improving access to care.  Attendees were able to receive up to 11 contact hours for participation in this meeting.

LCRC Researcher Receives Two Major Grants to Examine Prostate Cancer Disparities in African-American Men – Prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates are twice as high among African-Americans males as Caucasians and other ethnic minority groups.  Asim Abdel-Mageed, DVM, PhD, professor of urology, was awarded a five-year, $1.8 million ($1.2 million direct costs) National Cancer Institute grant in late 2011 to continue his research into possible causes of these disparities.  His current project examines whether there is a connection between higher levels of circulating estrogens, higher body mass index, and more aggressive forms of prostate cancer in African-American men.

This new grant supplements work that Dr. Abdel-Mageed started in early 2011, when he received a highly competitive Department of Defense Health Disparity Research grant totaling $903,000 over three years.  That project examines the ability of stem cells derived from the fat tissue of prostate cancer patients to migrate to and enhance the growth of prostate tumors, exploring a possible link between obesity and prostate cancer development and progression.  The results of his research may provide new options for African-American prostate cancer patients.

Co-investigators on this project include Raju Thomas, M.D.; Krishnarao Moparty, M.D.; Debasis Mondal, Ph.D.; and Krzysztof Moroz, M.D.