$5.7 Million Grant will Expand Rutgers/Roswell Park African-American Breast Cancer Study to Include Impact of Obesity on Survival and Quality of Life

African American womenNew Brunswick, N.J. – A $5.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01CA185623) will help investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Rutgers School of Public Health and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) expand their research into breast cancer in African-American women by exploring the impact of obesity and other health factors on survival and quality of life. The grant will support work over the next five years and was awarded to three Principal Investigators: Elisa Bandera, MD, PhD (Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey), Kitaw Demissie, MD, PhD (Rutgers School of Public Health), and Chi-Chen Hong, PhD (Roswell Park Cancer Institute).

Compared to Caucasians, African-American women are more likely to develop breast cancer at a younger age and at a later disease stage. According to the American Cancer Society, African-American women also experience higher breast cancer mortality than Caucasians and a lower five-year breast cancer survival rate (78 percent versus 90 percent among Caucasian females). The reasons behind these differences remain unclear.

“Because obesity and related co-morbidities such as diabetes and hypertension are more common in African-Americans, it is imperative to explore their impact on breast cancer treatment as well as survival and quality of life in this population and determine how optimal management of these conditions contributes to these outcomes,” notes Dr. Bandera, an epidemiologist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

This study builds upon a study of risk factors for aggressive breast cancer in Caucasian and African-American women — the Women’s Circle of Health Study (WCHS), led by Bandera and Christine Ambrosone, PhD, of Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The WCHS so far has recruited more than 1,500 African-American women with breast cancer and more than 1,200 without cancer and is still ongoing. Breast cancer cases are identified from ten counties in New Jersey through the New Jersey State Cancer Registry, which is a National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database. 

This latest grant will add follow-up of African-American women with breast cancer recently recruited into the WCHS to better understand factors affecting survival. As part of the study expansion, researchers will collect blood samples from new participants one year and two years following conclusion of breast cancer treatment to evaluate obesity-related biomarkers. The researchers expect that this information will increase our understanding of the biological pathways underlying the relationship between obesity, comorbidities, and poorer disease prognosis.  

“The cohort of African-American breast cancer survivors is unique and is one of the very few cohorts of its kind in the nation. Data collected in this cohort will primarily help to improve the health and survival of African-American breast cancer patients who exhibit the most lethal breast cancer,” notes Dr. Demissie, professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Rutgers School of Public Health, director of the Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities and member of Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. 

“This is largely uncharted territory. The data that we collect on the impact of co-morbidities like obesity, hypertension and diabetes and how effectively they are managed has not been tracked in other large studies, and we see a real opportunity to gain insights that will positively impact women with breast cancer,” said Dr. Hong, an assistant member of the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at Roswell Park, a comprehensive cancer center in Buffalo, N.Y.

“This is a novel study, as not much is known about predictors of breast cancer survival in African-American women. It has the potential of providing important information to improve clinical management of breast cancer, as well as critical information to understand the biological pathways by which obesity affects breast cancer survival in African-American women,” adds Bandera, who is also an associate professor of epidemiology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers School of Public Health.  “We hope that our findings will support the development of tailored interventions that can help reduce breast cancer deaths and improve quality of life in African-American breast cancer survivors.”

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (www.cinj.org) is the state’s first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. As part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey is dedicated to improving the detection, treatment and care of patients with cancer, and to serving as an education resource for cancer prevention. Physician-scientists at the Cancer Institute engage in translational research, transforming their laboratory discoveries into clinical practice, quite literally bringing research to life.  To make a tax-deductible gift to support the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, call 732-235-8614 or visit www.cinj.org/giving. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheCINJ.

The Cancer Institute of New Jersey Network is comprised of hospitals throughout the state and provides the highest quality cancer care and rapid dissemination of important discoveries into the community. Flagship Hospital: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. System Partner: Meridian Health (Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Ocean Medical Center, Riverview Medical Center, Southern Ocean Medical Center, and Bayshore Community Hospital). Major Clinical Research Affiliate Hospitals: Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown Medical Center, Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Overlook Medical Center, and Cooper University Hospital. Affiliate Hospitals: JFK Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton (CINJ Hamilton), Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset and University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.

About Rutgers School of Public Health
The Rutgers School of Public Health provides an exceptional, high-quality education that is accessible, affordable and designed to accommodate both working professionals and full-time students.  The School offers five degrees, including the Master of Public Health (MPH), an MS in Biostatistics, an MS in Health Outcome, Policy, and Economics, a PhD in Public Health and the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), as well as a number of dual degrees and post-baccalaureate certificates.  With educational opportunities offered in /New Brunswick, Newark and Stratford, the School is conveniently accessible across the state.  There are eight departments, including Biostatistics, Environmental and Occupational Health, Epidemiology, Health Education and Behavioral Science, and Health Systems and Policy in New Brunswick; Dental Public Health, Quantitative Methods: Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Urban Health Administration in Newark; and Health Systems and Policy in Stratford.  Students have opportunities to participate in leading public health research and can put their public health education into practice through participation in the School’s international health or community service projects.  Numerous continuing education opportunities for public health professionals are also available. 

About Roswell Park Cancer Institute
The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. Founded in 1898, RPCI is one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org. Follow RPCI on Facebook or Twitter.

Michele Fisher