Temple University's Katz School of Medicine and New York City's Hunter College are being awarded $13.5 million to jointly explore ways to reduce cancer health disparities that affect African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian-Pacific Americans.

The five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute will fund the creation of the Temple University Fox Chase Cancer Center and the Hunter College Regional Comprehensive Cancer Health Disparities Partnership, the institutions announced Tuesday. The joint effort will involve more than 70 investigators across the two institutions and strengthen outreach to communities in New York City, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

"It is a prestigious honor for Temple and Hunter to receive this competitive and unique grant to establish a cross-regional infrastructure to tackle the disproportionate cancer burden affecting underserved and diverse communities," said Grace X. Ma, principal investigator for the Fox Chase center and Temple associate dean for health disparities.

"For too long, certain communities have faced barriers that prevent them from getting the best available cancer prevention, detection, and treatment care, and they suffer disproportionately as a result," said Olorunseun Ogunwobi, principal investigator at Hunter and director of its cancer disparities research center. "This grant will enable us to identify research-based solutions to overcome those disparities, improving quality of life and health outcomes."

African Americans have the highest mortality rate and shortest survival rate for most cancers compared with other racial and ethnic groups in the United States, according to American Cancer Society findings presented by the partnership's representatives. Meanwhile, the representatives said, cancer has been the leading cause of death for nearly two decades for Asian-Pacific Americans, and both they and Hispanic Americans suffer from high liver cancer rates.

The new partnership will focus on three main areas. One will be cancer research, zeroing in particularly on liver, lung, and colorectal cancers. A second will be looking at ways to diversify research and medical professionals to include more members of the three ethnic and racial groups.

Finally, the partnership will be looking at ways of improving community outreach to the affected groups, including increasing cancer screenings, prevention, early detection, and access to treatment. The researchers also will examine other barriers to care, such as economic issues, health literacy, and proximity to medical services.

The National Cancer Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health. This grant is the first of its kind to be received by an institution serving Pennsylvania or New Jersey.