Thanks to a nearly $400,000 grant from the American Cancer Society and Pfizer, three gynecologic cancer experts from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will address widespread race-related barriers and disparities in the delivery of care that may affect the outcomes of gynecologic cancer patients. The grant, awarded under the Addressing Racial Disparities in Cancer Care Competitive Grant Program, will enable the team to develop a scalable (adaptable) and ultimately sustainable way to identify and address the social determinants of health that contribute to these concerns.
The researchers for the Johns Hopkins grant are co-principal investigator Anna Beavis, M.D., M.P.H., and Stephanie Wethington, M.D., M.Sc., assistant professors of gynecology and obstetrics in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and co-principal investigator Anne Rositch, M.S.P.H., Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The project expands on a pilot program started in 2017 in collaboration with Hopkins Community Connection (formerly Health Leads) that identified and addressed challenges disproportionately affecting Black patients — such as access to basic needs like food, housing and transportation — which have now been exacerbated by the disparate effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Black community. The team hopes that this expansion will be widely applied in the future and lead to more equitable outcomes for all women treated for gynecologic cancers.
“With the pandemic, our minority patients have been affected the most,” says Beavis. “While basic needs have always been more prevalent in underserved populations, the pandemic has brought additional financial and other resource strain to our Black patient community, so this grant is very timely.”
Gynecologic cancer is any cancer that starts in a woman’s reproductive organs (cervix, ovaries, uterus, vagina and vulva). The incidence of gynecologic cancers can vary by cancer type and race or ethnicity.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 94,000 women are diagnosed with gynecologic cancers each year. Black and Hispanic women get more cervical cancer associated with HPV than women of other races or ethnicities, possibly because of less access to screening tests and follow-up treatment.