By Scott Gilbert, Penn State
Penn State College of Medicine has been awarded a $320,000 grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation for use in training of post-baccalaureate students in research related to inconsistencies in breast cancer treatment.
Part of the Komen Foundation’s effort in previous years has been to fund research related to the needs of special populations receiving treatment for breast cancer. These include but are not limited to women who are members of minority groups, women who live in rural areas, women younger than 40, and women with low incomes, low health coverage and limited resources. The three students who will be mentored through the College of Medicine grant will be addressing the unique issues of women living in the rural Appalachian region.
Appalachia comprises the mountainous region of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky and North Carolina.
“A large proportion of Appalachia is designated as medically underserved, with citizens travelling long distances to access integrated care systems,” said Roger Anderson, professor of public health sciences and principal investigator. “As a result, this rural area has not participated in the well-noted trend of declining cancer mortality that is prevalent in the rest of the United States. Our students will be attempting to understand and identify strategies to address this problem.”
Candidates for the program must be enrolled in either the doctoral or masters programs in the Department of Health Policy and Administration at Penn State.
Each student in the program will formulate a research question that aims to describe the inconsistencies related to breast cancer screening and treatment in Appalachia. Students will be mentored by faculty members from the College of Medicine and the Department of Health Policy and Administration at Penn State for the duration of their research.
Even though this current study focuses on Appalachia, the techniques and principles it teaches are universally applicable.
“This training program represents a critical mission of the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute cancer control program,” said Anderson. “Its aim is to train future scientists who have the inspiration and methodological expertise to tackle important barriers to cancer prevention and access to early detection and optimal therapies in underserved regions of the United States.”
The program is a continuation of an existing College of Medicine project entitled “Breast Cancer Disparities in Appalachia” that was established with the Komen Foundation in 2010; this funding will facilitate its continuation for an additional three years.