Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) announced its initiative to increase minority representation in cancer and clinical trials. This initiative is aimed at reducing racial and ethnic disparities in cancer research and improving outcomes for minority populations. They will fund a New Health Equity Breakthroughs Team as well as announced an International Team to intercept gastric cancer which disproportionately impacts minority populations. They will also collaborate with the Black Women’s Health Imperative and Friends of Cancer Research in PCORI-supported clinical trial advocate training for black women. Only 4% of the Black and Hispanic (Latino) populations in the U.S. participate in what can be life-saving advanced cancer therapy trials. A growing movement organizes to change this bleak picture.
TrialSite News breaks this information down in question and answer format for a brief summary.
What is the Core Problem SU2C is trying to Address?
It is commonly known for decades in the clinical research world that there is an unacceptable lack of diverse population participation in cancer clinical trials. The gaps in clinical participation is largely due to socio-economic, cultural, trust and other barriers including residual concern from historical incidents.
Because of the dearth of participation in cancer research from ethnic minority groups (African American 4%; Hispanic 4%; Asian 15%) these groups are not benefiting from the advances made by cancer treatments despite the fact that many in these groups have higher death rates and shortest survival rate for most cancers.
Federal government funders have placed increasing emphasis over the past year on getting research funds to “underserved” and “underrepresented” populations including ethnic minorities.
Who is SU2C?
Stand Up to Cancer® (SU2C) raises funds to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. They are a division of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization established in 2008 by media and entertainment leaders who utilize these communities’ resources to engage the public in supporting a new, collaborative model of cancer research, to increase awareness about cancer prevention, and to highlight progress being made in the fight against the disease. As of December 2019, more than 1,600 scientists representing more than 180 institutions are involved in SU2C-funded research projects.
SU2C raises funds for translational cancer research through online and televised efforts. Central to the program is a telethon that was first televised by four major broadcast networks in over 170 countries back in September 2008. They raised over $100 million in that one evening broadcast. Funds collected by SU2C at least in the past were distributed by the American Association for Cancer Research.
SU2C shares it mission “to raise funds to accept the pace of groundbreaking translational research that can get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now.” They declare on their website that they SU2C “brings together the best and brightest researchers and mandates collaboration among the cancer community. By galvanizing the entertainment industry, SU2C has set out to generate awareness, educate the public on cancer prevention, and help more people diagnosed with cancer become long-term survivors.”
SU2C puts on an annual meeting, conducts conferences and workshops and emphasizes that 100% of donations received form the public support SU2C collaborative cancer research programs.
Who is their Leadership?
As they are part of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, they are led by present or former entertainment and media industry-connected stars. These prominent media personalities include individuals such as Katie Couric and Sherry Lansing who was the CEO of Paramount Pictures.
What are their Dream Teams? Research Teams?
See their Frequently Asked Questions
Where did they make the Announcement for the New Programs?
The announcement was made at the SU2C annual Scientific Summit, which is attended by SU2C’s leadership and 300+ prominent cancer researchers representing each of SU2C’s Dream Teams, Research Teams and individual grants.
How do they Review for New Research Projects?
Directed by their Scientific Advisory Committee, led by Nobel laureate Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, SU2C operates rigorous competitive review processes to identify the best research proposals to recommend for funding, oversee grants administration and ensure collaboration across research programs.
What are some Specific Actions SU2C will Undertake to Help Minority Communities?
SU2C CEO Sung Poblete, PhD, RN suggests their organization has a responsibility to address these equity gaps and “as one of the leading funders of cancer research” their duty to work toward better minority representation in clinical trials.
Funding attached to commitment to diversity in research
So for example SU2C’s Committee for Health Equity in Cancer Clinical Trials in collaboration with their scientific leadership will develop changes to their procurement language that will now be used to solicit proposals for SU2C Dream Teams, Research Teams and other grants in the SU2C research portfolio to increase diverse participation in cancer clinical trials. Moving forward, they require funding applicants to include three critical elements in every proposal to address health equity, including 1) indicate whether the research will address targeted minority populations for benefit; 2) include patient recruitment and retention plans for including historically underrepresented racial and ethnic populations; and 3) a letter of support from the lead institution’s Chief Diversity Officer or equivalent position.
SU2C will include these elements in their selection process and as part of grant performance assessed during formal semi-annual reviews.
Genentech Partnership: Funding up to $.6.4m for SU2C Health Equity Breakthroughs Research Team
SU2C will additionally fund up to $6.4 million for Health Equity Breakthroughs Research Team researching cancers affecting underrepresented populations, which is supported by a transformational grant from Genentech (Roche). SU2C will issue Request for Applications seeking proposals in Q1 2020. Proposals may address cancer that have a higher prevalence in a specific racial or ethnic population; cancers that are more deadly among specific minority populations or may address the need for more effective treatments for specific cancers for patients of diverse backgrounds.
Quita Highsmith, Chief Diversity Officer at Genentech, noted, “Genentech is committed to improving the health and well-being of all patients, which means ensuring that scientific research and innovative treatment options are developed for every individual.” She continued, “We are honored to partner with SU2C to support groundbreaking research that promotes health equity while working to revolutionize cancer care.”
International SU2C Gastric Cancer Interception Research Team
The team includes participants from a number of preeminant academic medical centers. Gastric (stomach) cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death worldwide and more common among back, Hispanic and Asian people than white populations. This $3 million Research Team will conduct intensive studies to identify biomarkers, such as particular bits of DNA, and cells shed from the tumor that circulate in the blood system and indicate the presence of gastric cancer. Team members focus on new detection technology, extending the use of a pill-sized camera that can be swallowed by the patient using a new market to “light up” cancer cells, allowing the camera to capture images of stomach tissue at risk of developing cancer. If validated in a clinical trials, these new methods will help doctors screen people in groups at risk of gastric cancer.
Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI) and Friends of Cancer Research in Project TEACH: Trained Emowereed Advocates for Community Health (Healing)
Funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), this program focuses on education and outreach. They are nationwide in their scope with the goal of empowering black women to effectively engage with researchers and clinicians, and to increase participation of black women in cancer-focused clinical trials.