Disparities in cancer incidence and mortality among members of racial/ethnic minority groups continue to be a daunting public health challenge. While cancer disparities have been well documented, further efforts are needed to understand the factors that cause these disparities and to develop interventions. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has had programs dedicated to addressing disparities for more than two decades, which now pursue a multipronged approach. Among the most recent NCI efforts is a stipulation included in all Cancer Moonshot funding opportunities that requires applicants to include information on how they will integrate data on populations affected by disparities or data on these populations into the proposed study. The Cancer Moonshot also includes specific disparities-related components, including those to fund the development of preclinical research models and screening programs that target specific racial/ethnic populations. More longstanding NCI efforts include those supporting a portfolio of studies, from basic to translational, that are unmasking biologic, socioeconomic, and cultural factors that contribute to disparities and identifying ways to directly address those factors through precision medicine and other approaches. Recent examples include the RESPOND study, which is focused on better understanding prostate cancer disparities in African American men. Other NCI programs are aimed at increasing the participation of people who are members of racial/ethnic minority groups in clinical studies, including innovative precision medicine studies. These include the NCI Community Oncology Research Program and the Partnerships to Advance Cancer Health Equity program that supports collaborations among institutions that serve large underserved populations and NCI-designated Cancer Centers. NCI also supports programs intended to improve the participation of under-represented populations in the cancer research and clinical workforce. This is helping to ensure that people from varied backgrounds can contribute their viewpoints and experiences to the cancer research enterprise and further deepen the talent pool from which research institutions can draw. From a clinical perspective, improving the diversity of clinicians/researchers can also improve trust among patients from racial/ethnic minority groups, which in turn can help increase the likelihood that these patients will consider participating in clinical studies. NCI programs that are helping to improve the diversity of the cancer workforce include the Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) that supports extramural research training and educational experiences for underrepresented individuals beginning in middle school and continuing through to first academic appointments through individual (F31 and K awards) and institutional (R25) grants, as well as the iCURE program that provides mentored research experiences within the NCI Intramural Research Program for students and fellows. Additional awards aid early-stage investigators in establishing themselves as independent investigators in the laboratory and clinical settings (R37, K23) and promote workforce diversity in basic cancer research (R21).

Citation Format: Norman E. Sharpless. How the National Cancer Institute is working to reduce cancer health disparities [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 IA01.