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VCU Massey Cancer Center to lead Alliance for Equity in Cancer Care

Sep 12, 2022

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VCU Massey Cancer Center will serve as the National Program Office for the Alliance for Equity in Cancer Care (the Alliance), an initiative funded by the Merck Foundation (the Foundation) and designed to make cancer care more equitable in the United States by helping cancer patients living in underserved communities receive timely access to high-quality, culturally responsive care. As part of this initiative, the Foundation is supporting Massey and providing grants to select nonprofit health care organizations to help develop and implement evidence-informed, innovative programs that advance equity in cancer care.

Massey operates on a “community-to-bench” model of equity for cancer research and care, in which the community informs and partners with the cancer center on its research to best address the cancer burden and disparities of those the center serves. This allows Massey to better refine scientific questions to drive meaningful cancer research, education, care and policy initiatives.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to making sure that cancer care is equitable,” says Robert Winn, M.D., director and Lipman Chair in Oncology at VCU Massey Cancer Center, senior associate dean for cancer innovation at the VCU School of Medicine and director of the Alliance National Program Office. “We are supporting diverse approaches – driven by local community needs – to reduce the unacceptable disparities in cancer care. We hope to improve the lives of people living with cancer and help transform how health systems deliver care so that it meets the medical and social needs of patients.”

As a collective, Alliance program grantees will work with Massey to improve the coordination of patient care from diagnosis through survivorship; strengthen patient engagement in treatment decisions and overall patient-provider communication; build community partnerships that address barriers to care related to social determinants of health; and provide essential psychosocial support services.

“Massey is leading the nation in cancer health equity research, and we are excited to share our experience collaborating with diverse populations to better understand and address their needs and facilitate cross-site program evaluation with the members of the Alliance program,” said Emmanuel A. Taylor, MSc, DrPH, associate director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at VCU Massey Cancer Center, co-director of the Alliance National Program Office and Lead Evaluator.

Massey will assist Alliance program grantees in building partnerships with community-based organizations and provide technical assistance to support their programs. Additionally, Massey will evaluate the effectiveness of Alliance programs and identify and promote best practices that can enhance the delivery of cancer care in the United States.

“The severity of the need to take action on advancing equity in cancer care cannot be overstated and will not be overlooked,” said Carmen Villar, CEO of the Merck Foundation. “We must move with urgency and work together to provide all people living with cancer access to high-quality care and treatment. The creation of the Alliance is an important step toward ensuring social determinants of health no longer factor into an individual’s ability to receive vital health care.”

Alliance program grantees include Boston Medical Center; Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, Case Western Reserve University; Conquer Cancer®, the ASCO Foundation; Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; RWJBarnabas Health; and University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center.

Alliance program grantees will convene regularly with Massey to discuss learnings, share insights and explore tangible actions to support the delivery of equitable cancer care within their local communities and beyond. 

Written by Annie Harris.

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