New grant aims to increase colorectal cancer screening, follow-up care in Appalachia

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Cancer-control researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) and the University of Kentucky aim to increase colorectal cancer screening and follow-up care among underserved individuals in Appalachia through a multi-institutional $5.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.

Co-led by Electra Paskett, PhD, MSPH, co-leader of the OSUCCC – James Cancer Control Research Program, and Mark Dignan, PhD, MPH, co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at the University of Kentucky, this new study will involve public health partners throughout Appalachia, a geographically unique and underserved area of the United States that spans 32 counties in Ohio and 54 counties in Kentucky.

“Rates of colorectal cancer incidence and related mortality in Appalachia are among the highest in the United States, and far too many people in this region do not receive potentially life-saving colorectal cancer screening. This is not a new problem, but it persists due to a combination of complicated factors, including less access to health care and other resources. This limits the availability of community health centers and providers who play a key role in recommending appropriate screenings and healthcare services,” says Paskett. “Many know these disparities exist, yet the problem has persisted for decades, and this needs to change.”

The goal of this five-year study is to assist community health centers and communities with selecting strategies and implementing a multi-level intervention to assure higher rates of guideline-recommended colorectal cancer screening, follow-up and referral-to-care among patients age 50-74 in their communities and the larger counties.

To accomplish this, Paskett’s and Dignan’s teams will rely on published evidence-based interventions to identify multi-level strategies that may improve screening rates (otherwise known as implementation science). These strategies may include:

  • patient and provider education
  • patient barrier counseling
  • distribution of at-home testing kits via mail
  • in-person personalized colorectal cancer risk assessment
  • provider reminders and provider assessment with feedback

Interested community organizations (e.g., health departments, senior centers, churches) that have the ability to reach and influence citizens may be involved in community-organized activities to increase colorectal cancer screening and follow-up on a larger scale.

“We know that Appalachian communities in general are tightly knit, rural communities where information from non-local sources may not be trusted or relevant,” Paskett says. “This becomes a barrier to care that we must deeply understand, and then work to overcome, so that the information we are offering is presented in a way that builds trust and demonstrates that we have the community’s best interests in mind.”

The study will be piloted in Guernsey County (Ohio) and Lewis County (Kentucky), with activities rolling out to 10 other community health centers and counties over the next three years.


For more information about cancer-control research at the OSUCCC – James, visit

About the OSUCCC – James

The OSUCCC – James strives to create a cancer-free world by integrating scientific research with excellence in education and patient-centered care, a strategy that leads to better methods of prevention, detection and treatment. Ohio State is one of only 51 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only a few centers funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials on novel anticancer drugs sponsored by the NCI. As the cancer program’s 356-bed adult patient-care component, The James is one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked by U.S. News & World Report and has achieved Magnet® designation, the highest honor an organization can receive for quality patient care and professional nursing practice. At 21 floors and with more than 1.1 million square feet, The James is a transformational facility that fosters collaboration and integration of cancer research and clinical cancer care. For more information, visit

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