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SIU Med School, Wash U Partner to Explore Rural Cancer Health Disparities

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NIH grant to fund researcher development, increase cancer research scope

Research suggests that where you live in Illinois impacts your likelihood of dying from certain diseases, specifically cancer. Low-income, rural communities experience significant cancer health disparities, including lower screening rates, increased incidence, later stage at detection, poorer survival rates and higher mortality. A new National Institutes of Health grant will support a research partnership at the medical schools of Southern Illinois University and Washington University to further investigate the cancer health disparities in the rural central, southern and Delta regions on Illinois. 

The NIH awarded the three-year program project exploratory grant (P20), totaling $1.3 million, to the Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU School of Medicine and the National Cancer-Institute-designated Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The grant will develop a pilot research program that allows junior researchers to gain research pilot funding, collaborative experience and preliminary data for future grant funding. This grant also will advance the career development of researchers in the field of cancer disparities.

“Cancer research, specifically cancer health disparities research, is critical to our region,” said SIU School of Medicine principal investigator Laurent Brard, MD, PhD, associate professor and chief of the gynecological oncology division. “With this grant, we can greatly enhance seed funding, education and the training of our researchers and increase the scope of rural cancer research. Our ultimate goal is to improve the health of patients in southern and central Illinois.”

The partnership will provide SIU School of Medicine researchers with access to research seminars and other training opportunities at Siteman while also offering short-term investigator exchange programs. 

"There is a great need to address the higher rates of cancer in central and southern Illinois," said Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, associate director for prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center and deputy director of Washington University’s Institute for Public Health. “Working with partners in southern Illinois, we can apply lessons learned by Siteman and Washington University investigators to speed reduction in cancer disparities in rural Illinois.” 

Research reported in this press release is supported by the National Institutes of Health under award number 1P20CA192987-01A1.

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