publication date: Oct. 16, 2020

Guest Editorial

AACR conference examines how societal framework of racism drives cancer disparities


Steven R. Patierno, PhD

Deputy director, Duke Cancer Institute;

Professor of medicine, pharmacology and cancer biology,

Professor of family medicine and community health,

Duke University School Medicine,

Conference co-chair, AACR Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorities and the Medically Underserved


The global coronavirus pandemic has torn the veil that dimmed the nation’s awareness of the breadth and depth of health disparities, including cancer health disparities.

Cancer disparities span the continuum of cancer care and adversely impact risk, prevention, screening, early detection, diagnosis, interception, treatment, progression, survival, and survivorship.

Cancer disparities are driven by a complex intersection between social, psychosocial, lifestyle, environmental, health system, and biological determinants of health.

This framework of intersectionality must contend with the interplay between ancestry-related individual-level genetics and biology, neighborhood-level social and physical environments, institutional-level systems (health care, workforce, legal, political), and societal-level cultural frameworks (racism, poverty, discrimination), including policies that perpetuate such frameworks.

In 2007, the leadership of the American Association for Cancer Research was prescient enough to call for a Cancer Disparities Think Tank to explore how to harness the AACR’s considerable influence to address this issue. I had the privilege of co-chairing that Think Tank along with my colleague Dr. Olufunmilayo (Funmi) Olopade.

Our two-day discussions focused on the critical need for cancer health disparities research, including … Continue reading AACR conference examines how societal framework of racism drives cancer disparities

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