temple researchers to address racial disparities in lung cancer care with new grant


Grant is two year, $400,000 American Cancer Society and Pfizer global medical grant

(Philadelphia, PA) – The path to cancer care is rarely straight-forward. But for Black men and women in particular, it is cluttered with obstacles, some of which are systemic – arising from policies, procedures, or practices that contribute to inequalities in care or that completely block access to critical services.

Blacks and African Americans constitute some 42 percent of the population of Philadelphia, and a large proportion of this population experiences inequalities in health care.

Now, researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) have the opportunity to address this issue, thanks to new support from the American Cancer Society (ACS) and Pfizer Global Medical Grants.

The two-year, $400,000 award supports work aimed at breaking down race-related barriers that contribute specifically to disparities in lung cancer screening and cancer care among Blacks and African Americans in the Philadelphia area. Only 10 cancer-focused programs across the country were awarded ACS/Pfizer grants, out of more than 120 applicants. The grant is funded by Pfizer Global Medical Grants and overseen by the ACS.

“We have learned to overcome systemic barriers of lung cancer screening and cancer care in our predominantly Black and African American population,” said Cherie Erkmen, MD, Professor of Thoracic Surgery in the Department of Thoracic Medicine and Surgery at LKSOM, Director of Lung Cancer Screening at Temple University Hospital, and principal investigator on the grant, which is anchored within the Center for Asian Health at LKSOM. “With funding from the ACS/Pfizer grant, we can now grow Temple’s successful lung cancer screening program. This is a critical time to address lung cancer, as it is the number one cause of cancer mortality.”

“Health disparities likely play a role in the increased risk of lung cancer and mortality among Black and African Americans compared to other populations,” Dr. Erkmen added. “Unfortunately, only about 3-6 percent of Black and African Americans who are eligible for screening are actually being screened, even though screening can reduce the risk of lung cancer death by 20-26 percent. Many people, especially in underserved communities, do not take advantage of this life-saving process due to a lack of resources to navigate the multiple steps of lung cancer screening.”

In previous work, Dr. Erkmen and colleagues successfully mitigated systemic barriers to lung cancer screening by developing a model known as multi-specialty, integrated lung cancer screening (mi-LCS). “Our unique screening model allows patients to participate in shared decision-making regarding the choice to screen and to receive education, smoking cessation counseling, low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) of the chest, LDCT results, and follow-up care in a single visit. Much of this visit can now be delivered through telemedicine, making screening possible in the COVID-19 era.”

The success of Temple’s single-visit mi-LCS program, which is directed by Dr. Erkmen, lies in the multispecialty contribution of Temple clinicians and researchers and the overwhelming, multi-institutional support the program has received across the university. Now, these same Temple institutions and collaborating researchers are contributing to the new grant, which will help more people in underserved communities receive the screening opportunities they need. The researchers plan to reach these communities through increased efforts to promote mi-LCS across social media and web-based education platforms. The importance of these avenues has become especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Thanks to ACS/Pfizer, Temple has received national recognition for our successful model of lung cancer screening and care. We now have an amazing opportunity to become a model institution, leading the way in the elimination of racial disparities in cancer care,” Dr. Erkmen said.


Co-investigators on the ACS/Pfizer grant include Grace X. Ma, PhD, Associate Dean of Health Disparities, Director of the Center for Asian Health, and Laura H. Carnell Professor at LKSOM; Deric C. Savior, MD, Head of the Section of Medical Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center at Temple University Hospital and Associate Professor in the Department of Hematology/Oncology at LKSOM; Kathleen Reeves, MD, Senior Associate Dean of Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and Director of the Center for Urban Bioethics at LKSOM; and Gerard Criner, MD, FACP, FACCP, founding Chair of Thoracic Medicine and Surgery and Laura H. Carnell Professor of Medicine at LKSOM and Director of the Temple Lung Center.

Supporting collaborators include John Daly, MD, FACS, Interim Dean, Dean Emeritus and Harry C. Donahoo Professor of Surgery at LKSOM; Michael A. Young, MHA, FACHE, President and CEO of Temple University Health System and Temple University Hospital; Richard I. Fisher, MD, President and CEO, Cancer Center Director, and Robert C. Young, MD, Chair in Cancer Research at Fox Chase Cancer Center and Senior Associate Dean at LKSOM; and Marc P. Hurowitz, DO, MBA, FAAFP, Executive Director of the Temple University Hospital – Jeanes Campus and CEO of Temple Physicians, Inc.

About Temple Health

Temple University Health System (TUHS) is a $2.2 billion academic health system dedicated to providing access to quality patient care and supporting excellence in medical education and research. The Health System consists of Temple University Hospital (TUH); TUH-Episcopal Campus; TUH-Jeanes Campus; TUH-Northeastern Campus; The Hospital of Fox Chase Cancer Center and Affiliates, an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center; Temple Transport Team, a ground and air-ambulance company; Temple Physicians, Inc., a network of community-based specialty and primary-care physician practices; and Temple Faculty Practice Plan, Inc., TUHS’s physician practice plan comprised of more than 500 full-time and part-time academic physicians in 20 clinical departments. TUHS is affiliated with the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.

Temple Health refers to the health, education and research activities carried out by the affiliates of Temple University Health System (TUHS) and by the Katz School of Medicine. TUHS neither provides nor controls the provision of health care. All health care is provided by its member organizations or independent health care providers affiliated with TUHS member organizations. Each TUHS member organization is owned and operated pursuant to its governing documents.

It is the policy of Temple University Health System that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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Jeremy Walter
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