Making cancer prevention sustainable, accessible

Continuing its mission to lower Kentucky’s high rates of cancer incidence and mortality, UK Markey Cancer Center has initiated two long-term research projects, which are supported by more than $16 million in grant funding. Both initiatives go beyond community education by attempting to make fundamental changes to how Kentuckians, and Americans more broadly, approach cancer prevention and care.

Researchers in Markey’s Cancer Prevention and Control (CP) Research Program will lead the funded projects, which respectively focus on colorectal and cervical cancers. Established in 2013, the CP Program centers around creating cancer prevention initiatives – such as smoking cessation, HPV vaccination, mammography and lung cancer screening – that are easily accessible to Kentuckians.

“There are particular obstacles to getting cancer screening in all populations,” the CP Program’s co-leader Mark Dignan, PhD, MPH, explained. “But in Appalachia, people have barriers such as very limited public transportation and low income, and we need to reach out and find ways to make our healthcare system work better so we can decrease the incidence and mortality of these cancers.”

mark dignan

"We want to make change within the community and the healthcare system that can be sustainable."

Mark Dignan, PhD, MPH

ACCSIS project in colorectal cancer

Funded through a $5.4 million, five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute’s Moonshot Initiative, the Accelerating Colorectal Cancer Screening through Implementation Science in Appalachia (ACCSIS-Appalachia) project is implementing a multilevel intervention strategy to combat the high rates of colorectal cancer in the area.

Working together in 12 Appalachian counties in Kentucky and Ohio, researchers from UK and Ohio State University (OSU) deploy cancer screening outreach for patients, support providers in recommending patients for colorectal cancer screening, emphasize the importance of follow-up care and find ways to work with electronic health records to improve tracking.

“It’s our contention that when healthcare systems work together, we can have better outcomes, and patients don’t fall through the cracks and get lost or get contradictory information,” Dignan noted. “We want to make change within the community and the healthcare system that can be sustainable.”

Multi-initiative cervical cancer grant

Through an $11 million NCI-funded grant, Markey’s CP Program is working in collaboration with researchers at OSU, West Virginia University and University of Virginia to combat the high cervical cancer incidence and mortality rates in Appalachia. Currently in its first year, the project is implementing three initiatives across 10 health systems in the area:

  • Smoking cessation: Researchers are working with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in the Appalachian region to enroll female patients who smoke into a multi-level smoking cessation program that provides counseling support and prescription medication.
  • HPV vaccination: This initiative is testing different engaging strategies, including informational comic books and clinic champions, to increase the rates of HPV vaccinations among Appalachian girls and women ages 11 to 26.
  • Cervical cancer screening: In the third part of this project, researchers are testing the effectiveness, feasibility and sustainability of mail-out HPV self-testing kits among Appalachian women.

“Cervical cancer can be treated and prevented, but we need to do a better job of implementing the screening and follow-up procedures we already have,” Dignan said. “Colon cancer incidence is increasing, but we do have good screening and early detection strategies for it. We’re going to make a difference in how these cancers affect our population.”

Stay informed of the latest health stories by email.

This content was produced by UK HealthCare Brand Strategy.