The Associated Press
The Associated Press
TEMPE – Cancer centers in Arizona and New Mexico are joining forces to pool research and resources in a partnership that seeks to discover new treatments, develop better detection methods and overcome barriers to medical care in Hispanic and American Indian communities.
Officials also hope the partnership between the Arizona Medical Center and University of New Mexico Cancer Center will allow them to draw in more research money because the federal government may look more favorably on medical centers that collaborate.
“By virtue of that sharing, it becomes more attractive as a place where more investments come in,” Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, who has had breast cancer, said Friday during a break during a meeting of cancer researchers.
In the past, cancer centers have traditionally competed intensely for the same research dollars, said Dr. Cheryl Willman, director of New Mexico center.
“The idea is to get over that,” Willman said.
Each center will continue to work out of its own offices, and the partnership will not require the construction of new buildings.
The collaboration is aimed at examining the causes of cancer, developing new cancer drugs, discovering new prevention methods and using technology to diagnose and address cancer cases.
One key element in the partnership is confronting disparities in cancer treatment in Hispanic and Indian communities.
Genetics make some groups more vulnerable to certain types of cancers, and some people in these communities might not have enough money to get access to health care, Willman said.
Cultural differences also factor into the equation. Some Indian communities don’t have a word for cancer, and some people there might view the medical condition as an infectious disease or the result of a spiritual deficit, Willman said.
Dr. David Alberts, director of the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona Medical Center in Tucson, said researchers have found a higher rate of pre-menopausal breast cancer among Hispanic women.
By studying the molecular profiles of Hispanic women, the two cancer centers hope to develop ways to prevent breast cancer, Alberts said.
“There are somewhat different populations of Hispanic and Native Americans in New Mexico versus Arizona, but there is more in common than there are differences,” Alberts said.
Anslem Roanhorse Jr., executive director of health services for the Navajo Nation, said the help is welcome and that epidemiology research by the tribe will aid other efforts to confront the disparities.
“We just need to continue to build on it,” Roanhorse said. “Now that we have our own Navajo epidemiology center, we can also do more things in terms of research and then data sharing.”