Thompson receives $4.29 million for cancer disparities research

Five-year extension of Yakima Valley program expands health promotion efforts to include Hispanic communities in Franklin County
Dr. Beti Thompson
Dr. Beti Thompson's five-year grant will expand the Center's cancer prevention efforts beyond the lower Yakima Valley (Yakima County) to include Hispanic communities in Franklin and, most likely, Benton counties. Center News file photo

Dr. Beti Thompson of the Public Health Sciences Division received a five-year, $4.29 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to extend ongoing research aimed at reducing cancer disparities among Hispanics in the Yakima Valley.

The grant, part of the NCI’s Community Networks Program, builds on five years of previous federal funding and will allow the Hutchinson Center to expand its cancer prevention efforts in Hispanic communities in Yakima County (lower Yakima Valley) to include residents of Franklin County. (The program will most likely also include Benton County.) Total funding for the project to date is $6.77 million.

Launched in spring 2005, the NCI Community Networks Program aims to reduce and eliminate cancer disparities through community-based research, education and training. The goal is to significantly improve access to and use of beneficial cancer interventions in communities experiencing disparities.

“To achieve this goal, we have been working closely with multiple community agencies and organizations in the Yakima Valley to develop and implement effective ways to reduce cancer health disparities experienced by Hispanics living in this rural part of Eastern Washington,” said Thompson, principal investigator on the grant.

Early success with community partners

During the last five years, the Center's Community Networks Program, which is based in a field office in Sunnyside, Wash., has built an infrastructure of community partners to promote cancer awareness and education in the Yakima Valley.

Achievements include:

  • Establishing a system to recruit minority students to work on cancer prevention projects

  • Developing community-based research projects to address specific cancer disparities.

“In the past five years our staff has reached more than 25,000 community members through more than 3,500 community education activities,” said Ilda Islas, field operations supervisor for the Sunnyside office. “We also awarded 10 mini grants to fund community-developed cancer prevention projects.” In addition, five junior investigators received training and more than 20 high school students and undergraduates participated as interns and research assistants.

Goals for extension grant

The new Community Networks Program grant will advance the progress made during the last five years in the following key areas: 

  • A randomized clinical trial will assess two different approaches to motivate women to receive cervical cancer screening and assess the use of patient navigators to reduce follow-up time after an abnormal Pap test result.

  • A pilot project will aim to address community requests for culturally specific support for cancer survivors.

  • A community outreach component will conduct a needs assessment and work with the community to develop an education and outreach plan.

  • A training core will help train a new generation of scientists in community-based participatory and scientific research.

The Center will continue to work with a 25-member community advisory board on all aspects of the project, including identifying questions for surveys, developing and implementing intervention strategies, resolving challenging issues and planning for the dissemination of information throughout the community.

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