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Dwight E. Heron

UPMC Media Relations

Consortium Led By UPMC Mckeesport Receives Multi-Million Dollar Federal Grant To Reduce Disparities In Cancer Care And Improve Access To Clinical Trials

PITTSBURGH, October 22, 2003 A consortium of five hospitals, several community-based organizations and local health care providers led by UPMC McKeesport Hospital has received a five-year, $5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to improve access and clinical outcomes for racial and socioeconomically disadvantaged populations with cancer.

The grant, specifically addressing racial and socioeconomic disparities in radiation therapy for cancer patients, was awarded to UPMC McKeesport in recognition of the development of a consensus-based decision-making model designed to serve the needs of both urban and rural patients. UPMC McKeesport is one of four hospitals across the country to receive the grant this year.

"A number of barriers, both real and perceived, hinder minorities and economically disadvantaged populations from receiving much needed radiation services for cancer care and from accessing clinical trials," said Dwight Heron, M.D., principal investigator of the grant and assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "This grant will allow us to provide radiation services to patients and communities with the greatest needs and will help address and overcome geographic, cultural and socioeconomic factors that limit access to these services."

The consortium, the Radiation Oncology Community Outreach Group (ROCOG), will be based at UPMC McKeesport and includes Jameson Hospital in New Castle, Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, Somerset Hospital in Somerset, Allegheny Cancer Institute at Somerset, UPMC Lee Hospital and the John P. Murtha Pavilion of the UPMC Cancer Centers, both in Johnstown. The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Allegheny Cancer Institute and the National Adjuvant Surgical Breast & Bowel Project will provide locally-based academic support while two additional cancer centers, Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y., and the Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, will act as mentors in the project to advise in the design of ongoing clinical programs and community outreach efforts.

"We are very excited to be part of this consortium," said Julian Proctor, M.D., Ph.D., medical director of radiation oncology at Jameson Hospital. "Patients in our region experience significant barriers to seeking care. As a result, we often see patients after their disease has progressed, when it is much more difficult to treat successfully. This consortium will create new opportunities for patients, families and communities to seek and receive the care they need and deserve."

Other partnerships with key community and faith-based organizations include the Consumer Health Coalition of Greater Pittsburgh, the Center for Healthy Hearts and Souls and the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health's Center for Minority Health. These partnerships are intended to ensure that new programs within the grant are both relevant and appropriate to target populations.

"Too often, community-based organizations are excluded from academic programs intended to reach the community level," said Geoffrey Webster, director of the Consumer Health Coalition of Greater Pittsburgh. "Including organizations such as ours in the beginning phases of project development makes certain that goals and strategies are targeted to specific audiences and ensures the greatest likelihood of success."

Examples of innovations within the grant include developing a system to provide transportation to rural patients, creating a neighborhood-based cancer survivor buddy system, assisting with child or senior care during treatment, developing a telemedicine system to provide real-time care consultation with local and national experts at other centers, and creating a comprehensive quality assurance and improvement system to ensure the quality of care and to monitor treatment disparities.

Dr. Proctor and David Stefanik, M.D., radiation oncologist at the John P. Murtha Pavilion, are co-principal investigators on the grant. Other lead personnel on the grant include Susan Rakfal, M.D., UPMC McKeesport; Michael Dougherty, M.D., and Carole Ross, R.N., M.S., Mercy Hospital; G. Gordon McCormack, M.D., and Sibyl Mcnelly, R.N., M.S.N., Somerset Oncology Center; and Keith Morgenlander, M.P.H., and Shalom Kalnicki, M.D., University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

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