Background/Purpose: Increasing participation of under-represented minorities (URMs) in cancer-related fields is critical for eliminating disparities in prevention, incidence, prevalence, detection, treatment, survival, and mortality. Early engagement in scientific research is linked to retention of students in STEM programs and careers. Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) is one of the largest consortium comprehensive cancer centers in the world. As part of the mission to find new and innovative ways to combat cancer and eliminate cancer disparities in communities throughout the Northeast, we are shaping the development of a new, diverse, and educated workforce through the Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) program. CURE introduces high-school and college students from URM populations to the world of cancer research. The program aims to increase URMs successfully pursuing careers in biomedicine, cancer research, and/or health disparities, pursuing graduate degrees and/or professional training in these areas, and engaging in scholarly activity. Initially funded through a cancer center supplement, during the past two years DFHCC has expanded their programming by successfully obtaining two NCI R25 grants, Young Empowered Scientists for ContinUed Research Engagement (YES for CURE) Program (NCI CA221738) and Summer Program to Advance Research Careers (SPARC) Program (NCI CA214256).

Description: DF/HCC has engaged over 400 students in research experiences at its seven-member institutions. Building on a 17-year history of research training experience and a long-term partnership with the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB), DF/HCC created programming that combines hands-on research experiences with professional development seminars, journal clubs, book clubs, social events, and individual project planning.

Evaluation: Students and mentors are surveyed each summer to identify opportunities for improvement. We also track academic and professional progress of our alumni annually.

Usefulness: Based on our 2017 survey with a 71% average response rate, 95% of our alumni have completed or are currently enrolled in post-secondary programs, with 72% completing college degrees so far. Of these, 83% graduated with STEM or health science degrees and 23% have additionally completed graduate degrees. Over two thirds of our alumni are currently working full- or part-time in STEM-related fields and almost 25% in cancer-related work. 15% are working in a health disparities-related field. Our alumni have coauthored more than 243 scientific publications. Our research education and training successfully engage the scientific curiosity and promote the academic success and future research careers of promising young URM scientists.

Learning Objectives: The participant shall be able to learn best practices for engaging high school and college students from under-represented backgrounds in hands-on cancer research.


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Citation Format: Karen Burns White, Emily McMains, Diedra Wrighting, Joan Becker, Kathynie Hinds. Lessons learned from seventeen years of cancer research experiences program for under-represented high school and college students [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Eleventh AACR Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved; 2018 Nov 2-5; New Orleans, LA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2020;29(6 Suppl):Abstract nr IA16.