In 1971, President Nixon signed into law the National Cancer Act (NCA), colloquially known as the “War on Cancer”, which pushed cancer onto the national agenda and is credited for many subsequent increases in the knowledge of the molecular, cellular, and genetic causes and effects of cancer. But even though cancer mortality has declined overall in intervening years after the NCA, cancer health disparities persist in the form of higher cancer incidence and mortality rates among certain cancer types and certain populations. Breast and cervical cancers disproportionately affect African American, Hispanic, and American Indian Women. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death for Latinos (with men and women combined). Forty-five years after the NCA, how will the next enormous cancer initiatives—President Barack Obama’s Cancer Moonshot and the All of Us Research Program (formerly the Precision Medicine Initiative Cohort Program)—impact cancer health disparities? The emergence of precision medicine and the sharing of information across sectors are at the heart of these large national initiatives and hold vast potential to address complex health disparities that remain in incidence reporting, incidence, treatment, prognoses, and mortality among certain cancer types and racial/ethnic minorities, including African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos, compared to Whites. But clinical research efforts and data collection have historically lacked diverse representation for various reasons, posing a large risk to these national initiatives in their ability to develop diverse cohorts that adequately represent racial/ethnic minorities. Efforts to reduce disparities and increase diversity in study cohorts have emerged, from patient navigation, to use of mobile technology to collect data, to national consortiums dedicated to including diverse groups, to university training on health disparities. These efforts point to the need for the Cancer Moonshot and precision medicine leaders to develop a multifaceted approach to address disparities in health and healthcare to promote a diverse healthcare workforce, patient-centered care, maintenance of a database of information regarding the state of health disparities, and the institution of measurable goals for improving care across all ethnic groups. If these elements are included, it is possible that the Cancer Moonshot and precision medicine will benefit the entire population of our country.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research