Community Scoop

Grant boosts geographic/ethnic cancer inequities studies

Press Release – University of Auckland

Auckland and Waikato medical research teams have secured $1.9 million to unravel geographic and ethnic differences in cancer outcomes.Grant boosts studies to unravel geographic and ethnic cancer inequities

Auckland and Waikato medical research teams have secured $1.9 million to unravel geographic and ethnic differences in cancer outcomes.

Funding from the Health Research Council and the Ministry of Science and Innovation will support two University of Auckland-led projects looking at patient outcomes for colorectal cancer and screening programmes for prostate cancer.

The Midlands Prostate Cancer project will look at the different pathways for men accessing care through the Waikato, Lakes and Bay of Plenty District Health Boards to ascertain both the costs and complications of treatments. The study aims to understand access and quality of care with a particular focus on rural and Māori men, two groups disproportionately represented in statistics for colorectal and prostate cancers.

Lead investigator for the Midlands project and Head of the Waikato Clinical School Professor Ross Lawrenson says: “This research will add to the evidence base required for a quality assurance framework for prostate screening and subsequent treatment.

“We will be able to discover whether access to care influences patient journeys and whether Māori and rural men are getting equal access compared to their non-Māori and urban counterparts. We will also garner better insight into the social and psychological impact of men living with this disease.”

Similarly colorectal cancer research in New Zealand suggests disparities relating to geographical location, ethnicity and socio-economic status.

The Presentation, Investigation, Pathways, Evaluation and Rx (PIPER) project will be the largest New Zealand study of its type in cancer, and will examine patients’ characteristics, their cancers, the treatment they receive, and their outcomes to provide an assessment of patient management across New Zealand to International standards, allowing identification of differential management resulting in the reported inequalities.

Professor Michael Findlay says: “The funders have recognised the importance of a national approach to cancer research, and we have assembled a project team comprising experts from many specialties across the country. This collaborative approach puts us in an excellent position to translate the results of this study into meaningful improvements in patient care.” Project clinical lead Dr Christopher Jackson, Medical Oncologist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Otago, says: “Research often focuses on single elements of good cancer care, like choosing the best chemotherapy drug, or right radiation dose. Our project aims to join the dots, and look at how each component of care fits together to give us an holistic view of the treatments we deliver, with the patient at the centre”.

For both colorectal and prostate cancer Māori are less likely to be diagnosed than other New Zealanders; however in both instances they are more likely to have higher rates of mortality. Similarly people living in rural areas also appear to have poor health outcomes. Co-Investigator Associate Professor Papaarangi Reid, Tumuaki Māori at The University of Auckland, says: “This is all about examining our health structures and systems so that everybody gets a fair deal.”

A third grant was also given to researchers at Massey University to look at more coordinated and efficient palliative care for cancer patients, including more culturally-appropriate end-of-life care for Māori.

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