NCI awards UH Cancer Center $8M to enhance cancer care for Hawaiʻi’s underserved, minority and rural patients

August 23, 2019

Aerial photo of the UH Cancer Center in Kakaako
Aerial photo of the UH Cancer Center in Kākāʻako

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded an $8 million six-year grant to continue the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) at the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center designed to provide the best cancer clinical trials to and increase participation of Hawaiʻi’s minority, rural, and underserved patient populations.

“The UH Cancer Center, by providing these cancer clinical trials and cancer patient care for both adults and children, gives Hawaiʻi residents the opportunity for the most effective treatments without having to leave the islands,” said Jeffrey Berenberg, MD, an NCORP study principal investigator.

Out of 46 NCORP granted sites the UH Cancer Center is one of only 14 designated as an NCORP Minority/Underserved Community Site where the patient population is comprised of at least 30 percent racial/ethnic minorities or rural residents. The Center has been a member of this program (and its earlier version called the Minority-Based Community Clinical Oncology Program) since 1994.

“An NCORP Minority/Underserved Community Site designation helps the UH Cancer Center increase cancer clinical trial accruals of underrepresented populations in Hawaiʻi,” said Jared Acoba, MD, an NCORP study principal investigator. “Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and Asians represent a small fraction of patients enrolled in cancer clinical trials nationwide. It is critical to enhance access to the highest level of quality cancer care to these patients.”

The UH Cancer Center recently expanded its geographic cancer coverage with the NCI’s approval of the addition of Family Health Plan (FHP) Health Center, Guam, in January 2019, through the Center’s affiliation with Minority/Underserved NCORP. Guam patients are able to now participate in NCI-sponsored cancer clinical trials.

“One of the unique aspects of Hawaiʻi Minority/Underserved NCORP is that it includes research studies to improve cancer care delivery, an area that UH Cancer Center, along with its clinical partners, has excelled at since the program’s inception,” said Randall Holcombe, MD, MBA, UH Cancer Center director and an NCORP principal investigator.

The Hawaiʻi Minority/Underserved NCORP provides more than 100 clinical trials, a significant component of the more than 200 cancer research trials open to both children and adults coordinated by the UH Cancer Center. Most of the NCORP trial activity is conducted in collaboration with members of the UH Cancer Center clinical trials network that includes Hawaiʻi Pacific Health, Queens Health System, Kuakini Medical Center, Tripler Army Medical Center, and private practice oncology physician offices.

“Clinical advancements in prevention and treatment approaches must benefit all cancer patients. The best way to make that a reality is to ensure clinical research is conducted in diverse populations—both ethnic and geographic diversity,” said NCI Acting Director Douglas R. Lowy, MD, “Communities of color and rural communities face disadvantages in access to cutting-edge cancer care. We believe that clinical trials provide access to high quality cancer care. NCORP enables us to make this available to more communities.”

UH Cancer Center NCORP goals are to design and conduct:

  1. Cancer prevention, control, and screening/post treatment surveillance clinical trials
  2. Multi-level cancer care deliver research
  3. Enhance patient/provider access to treatment/imaging trials
  4. Facilitate minority/underserved participation in clinical research
  5. Increase integration of disparities research questions across all study types/settings
  6. Integrate the expertise of primary/specialty care providers, health services and behavioral researchers with oncologists
  7. Accelerate knowledge transfer into clinical practice and healthcare systems/organizations