On Oct. 22, the National Institutes of Health announced a five-year, $5.3 million grant to the University of Florida College of Dentistry to fund a new research center aimed at reducing disparities in head and neck cancer survival through prevention and early detection in low-income, minority men.
It is the first NIH-funded center to focus on head and neck cancer in the Southeast. Minority men suffer a disproportionate burden of death and impairment from head and neck cancers.
Each year, more than 11,000 people die because of head and neck cancers in the United States and 34,000 new cases are diagnosed.
It is the 10th leading cause of death among African-American men, who suffer twice the mortality of white men. In Florida, African-Americans are diagnosed at a younger age and more advanced disease stage compared with whites. Most African-American men will survive about 21 months after diagnosis while white men will survive about 40 months.
For some people, oral cancer begins with a mouth sore or perhaps a suspicious spot found by a dentist during a regular checkup. Patients generally need to see specialists for treatment, which forces them to deal with new doctors at an emotionally vulnerable time. Surgery for oral cancer is often disfiguring and radiation may cause loss of the ability to speak.
“As we talked with local residents, we learned about the negative impact on people’s lives,” said Henrietta Logan, Ph.D., a professor at the College of Dentistry and the center’s director. “We found that many community leaders, who were invited to meetings because of their community involvement, had been touched by this disease within their own families. They had stories of relatives who were diagnosed too late.”
The new multi-disciplinary center involves faculty from several colleges, incorporating techniques of participatory research involving community members at all steps from study design to dissemination of findings.
It will be located at the College of Dentistry in Gainesville, and programs will extend to satellite clinics and rural locations throughout the state. The successful grant application was the result of collaboration with many professional associations and collaborative groups, including Florida A&M University, Alachua County Organization for Rural Needsand regional ministerial networks, officials said.
Several UF faculty have distinguished records in research of head and neck cancers, and the center will provide an infrastructure for ongoing collaboration, according to Logan. It will strengthen partnerships among researchers, clinicians and the community, becoming a sustainable resource for the most disadvantaged of patients.
Participants in a ceremony marking the new center in (location) included U.S. Rep. “C.W.” Bill Young, a longtime supporter of UF dentistry, and Dr. Carl M. Kuttler Jr., the president of St. Petersburg College who was instrumental in establishing a UF satellite dental clinic in St. Petersburg.