Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Young Survivors Make a Big Impact

(L to R): Cancer Survivors Neillie Butler, Callie Dunaway
and LaKisha Cargill
Yesterday, the Young Supporters Board (YSB) of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center held its bimonthly meeting here at the center. In addition to the board's regular business, this meeting also featured a panel of three young cancer survivors: Neillie Butler, a three-time sarcoma survivor, and LaKisha Cargill, a five-year breast cancer survivor - and also both YSB members - and Callie Dunaway, a seven-month brain cancer survivor and staff member of the Cancer Center's Office of Development and Community Relations.

Hearing these young women share their stories was an emotional experience for all of us, and it was a powerful reminder of why we - myself included - do the work that we do. And that is saving lives, which is the ultimate goal of cancer research. Hearing from someone who has been impacted by research firsthand and whose life was saved by the doctors and nurses at the Cancer Center drives the point home - every research discovery, every new treatment, everything we as cancer investigators do, we do to save the lives of cancer patients.

I thank Neillie, LaKisha and Callie for sharing their cancer experiences with us, and I especially thank the Young Supporters Board for taking such an active role in the fight against cancer. This dynamic group of young professionals works throughout the year to raise money for cancer research and to support the Cancer Center's patient and family service efforts. Theirs is the generation that can eliminate cancer as a public health problem, and I feel confident that with our help they will make this a reality.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Heading South: Colorectal Cancer Rates Decrease, But Not Much

A new study this week revealed that fewer people are being diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and the number of people dying from the disease is decreasing as well. This is due in large part to an increase in the number of people getting screened, as well as reducing or eliminating risk factors such as smoking and obesity.

The news for us in the South, however, is not quite as good. The highest rates of colorectal cancer deaths are in the South and Appalachia. While death rates fell by as much as 33 percent in several Northeastern states, the decrease was only 15 percent or less in six Southern states, including Alabama.

Why is this the case? There are several reasons. Southern states are generally poorer than Northern states, and they tend to have more residents without health insurance who may forgo the regular screening that experts recommend for people over age 50. Southerners are also more likely to be obese and to smoke. Alabama is actually the second fattest state in the nation, with a 32.3 percent obesity level. Of the 10 states with the highest obesity rates, nine are in the South.

The UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is committed to addressing disparities such as these. Our location in the heart of the Deep South makes us a natural leader in developing research and delivery programs to understand and eliminate cancer health disparities. Our Deep South Network for Cancer Control has been quite active and successful in making progress in these arena among minority populations. We have recently begun expanding our research efforts in obesity to better understand the connection between nutrition and cancer. This work is being led by world-renowned nutrition scientist Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D, who joined the Cancer Center in 2010.

Rest assured that our scientists are working every day toward our goal of eliminating cancer as a public health problem. I truly believe that this will soon be a reality.

-Ed Partridge, M.D.