By Caitlyn Crenshaw–
The University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences has established a training program for post-baccalaureate students, made possible with a grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which researches different aspects of breast cancer disparities in ethnicities concerning risk factors, prognosis and survival.
The Komen researchers, Avonne Connor, Nandita Das and Stephanie Denkhoff, are focusing on recognizing the influence of genetics, lifestyle and environment on breast cancer in minority populations.
Stephanie Denkhoff said, that the Komen training program “has allowed me to finish my coursework and develop ideas for my dissertation.”
Denkhoff, a Komen trainee and research assistant, became a part of the Komen training program in her second year of the doctoral program and is evaluating genetic variations and the risk of breast cancer between Hispanic and non-Hispanic/white women.
The research has already established that “as a general rule, we do see that Hispanic women are more likely to develop a tumor that is more aggressive and has a less favorable prognosis,” Denkhoff said.
Although these findings are currently unpublished, the existing data supports the conclusion that Hispanic women, along with African American women, have a poor survival time from breast cancer compared with white women.
Clara Campau, a freshmen undecided major whose grandfather has suffered from cancer, said anything the researchers are “doing to research [cancer] is beneficial.”
If the disparities between populations are known and explicit, doctors can tailor treatments and prognoses to a patient’s ethnicity if relevant to their type of cancer.
Each of the Komen researchers utilizes existing data from studies done in the past 12-15 years in New Mexico to construct their own study and acquire new, innovative conclusions.
Denkhoff served as coordinator for the Long Term Quality of Life Study, a follow up for survival and quality of life of women form a 1996 study conducted in New Mexico.
Denkhoff said, now “my job is to analyze the data that we have been collecting over the past four years.”
Kathy Baumgartner, on of the mentors for the Komen training program, said “taken together these studies are providing important clues regarding the origins of disparities in breast cancer risk and prognosis.”
According to the CDC, “breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, aside from melanoma, in the U.S. and is one of the leading causes of cancer death among women.”
In Kentucky alone about 3,600 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.
Because of the training program, each Komen researcher is able to utilize data that has already been collected to develop their own study, different but each relating to breast cancer disparities.
Baumgartner said “these findings may be extended in future studies that may result in improvements in both the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.”
Photo courtesy SusanGKomen for the Cure