Although cancer rates and mortality in the United States are improving overall, the cancer burden remains especially high for underserved population groups. To focus on this disparity, the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center is hosting its annual (virtual) symposium March 4–5 to identify inequalities and propose solutions to promote equity for all persons whose lives are impacted by cancer diagnoses.

The fifth annual Cancer Disparities Symposium, “Navigating Cancer Disparities: Lessons Learned and How to Move Forward,” will address a wide spectrum of topics, from groundbreaking research in COVID-19 infection among cancer patients, to the combined roles of biology and social factors that contribute to cancer outcomes, as well as the impact of clinical trials participation, and the emotional, physical and financial pains of cancer. 

“The focus is on underserved groups consisting of Blacks, Latinx, poor urban and rural populations and others at high risk and with difficulties in medical access,” said Stan Gerson, director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and interim dean of the School of Medicine.  

Each session is capped with a panel discussion and will culminate in a Thought Leaders panel discussion, underscoring the event’s collaborative nature and lending an opportunity for audience questions and answers. 

Symposium directors, Erika Trapl and Jennifer Cullen, leaders within the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, have assembled an impressive lineup of speakers, including prominent researchers, clinicians and community organizations devoted to eradicating cancer health disparities. 

Cancer prevention and control expert Otis W. Brawley, who trained in medicine at University Hospitals, will deliver the scientific keynote address. Brawley is known for closing racial, economic and social disparities in prevention, detection and treatment of cancer in the United States and worldwide. After over 20 years as chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society, he leads a broad interdisciplinary research effort on cancer health disparities at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Kimmel Cancer Center.

Worta McCaskill-Stevens will deliver the community keynote, sharing her expertise in bringing clinical trials to the community. McCaskill-Stevens is chief of the Community Oncology and Prevention Trials Research Group, which houses the NCI Community Oncology Research Program, a community-based clinical trials network launched in 2014. McCaskill-Stevens has been recognized for her leadership, including her role in furthering the advancement of minority investigators in cancer research. 

The unique academic-community poster session will feature a diverse array of topics related to both addressing broad community needs and those of populations who experience cancer disparities. 

New this year, is a common reading session—Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care by Dayna Bowen Matthew. Audience members will break into small groups and delve into a facilitated discussion to reflect on the common reading, lessons learned and ways to move forward to address cancer disparities. At the end of the session, all attendees will return together as one group to share key discussion points.

Pre-registration for the fifth annual Cancer Disparities Symposium is required. The fee to attend is $25. Visit the symposium website for details.