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Community Engagement

The Local Take talks Cancer Health Equity with Dr. Lillard of Morehouse School of Medicine


Saturday morning at 8am on WCLK's The Local Take I speak with Dr. James Lillard, Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Immunology at the Morehouse School of Medicine.  The Morehouse School of Medicine is the only HBCU participating in the American Association of Cancer Research 2020 By 2020 Program To Cure Cancer.  

I ask Dr. Lillard to share with us what the 2020 By 2020 Program is and why it is so important for the Morehouse School of Medicine to be part of collaborative initiative to combat cancer. He speaks about the different subsets of cancer explaining that there are over 50 subsets of breast cancer alone.  He shares that just as every human is different, every cancerous tumor is different. 

I ask about the disparities in outcomes for our community even when the socio-economics or early detection is not a factor and he explains that the disparities and cancer health equity challenges are more complicated than just economics.  He speaks to culture, diet and other biological risk factors that exist in the African Diaspora. 

Dr. Lillard also speaks about research studies around "precision" medicine.  These are medical solutions that are tailored specifically for an individual.  Often these studies are done without diversity often because physicians are not aware of the studies or benefits. Dr. Lillard explains that when asked African-Americans are likely to participate in medical research, but we have to be asked. 

African Americans represent 12% of the US population and 32% of the Georgia population. However, only 5% enroll in clinical trials and less than 3% are represented in precision cancer medicine databases. The databases are being used to identify better diagnostic tests, cancer medicines, and to match patients with the right therapy or potential life-saving clinical trial.  This under-representation contributes to the disparities we see in cancer mortalities between African Americans and European Americans, as well as tests and drugs not working the same in these diverse populations. 

To address these problems, Morehouse School of Medicine has partnered with the American Association for Cancer Research and the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network to engage communities and healthcare providers to increase African Americans participation in precision medicine initiatives related to cancer.  Together, we aim to collect and analyze over 2,000 cancer genomes to democratize precision cancer medicine for the advancement of health equity.

For more information about this study or the MSM online MS in Biotechnology program at TotalCancerCare@msm.edu or call 404-752-1034.

For more information on the Morehouse School of Medicine 

For more information about the American Association of Cancer Research 

Morehouse School of Medicine