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advocate of the month

"Understanding Health Disparities in Cancer: The Case of Multiple Myeloma"
NOTE: Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions of the pictures.
Meghan Buzby,
IMF's Director of US Advocacy
Disparities persist in multiple myeloma (MM), which affects African Americans approximately twice as often as Caucasians and Hispanics. Additionally, African Americans are more likely to succumb to myeloma, even when controlling for factors such as location. In a packed room of Congressional staff and colleagues from other cancer organizations, participants heard from expert speakers on the challenges of reducing and eliminating cancer health disparities for patients with multiple myeloma.
First, Dr. Brendan Weiss, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, provided background information on myeloma and discussed current research into why disparities may exist for patients. He discussed research addressing whether individuals of different races respond differently to stem cell transplants and whether there may be differences in tumor biology.  He emphasized the need for more research to determine why disparities exist and how they can be minimized.
Dr. Brendan Weiss
Dr. Craig Cole
Dr. Craig Cole, a Physician at Gunderson Lutheran Health System, next discussed community-based approaches for treating myeloma. He emphasized the importance of clinical trials so that patients can access the most cutting edge treatments; he hypothesized that African Americans may be less likely to know about clinical trial opportunities. He discussed the need for community education programs to educate the African American community about its risks for developing MM and the benefit of clinical trials, and he highlighted several examples of successful education programs.
Dr. Nelson Aguila, Program Director, Diversity Training Branch, National Cancer Institute (NCI) Center for Reducing Cancer Health Disparities, focused on current National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiatives related to cancer disparities. NCI has several programs related to research, training and workforce diversity and initiatives to engage communities and researchers. He highlighted three researchers in multiple myeloma whose projects are supported by NCI and seek to discover new insights regarding myeloma and disparities.
Dr. Nelson Aguila from NCI
Geri Smith-Benjamin,
multiple myeloma patient
diagnosed at age 52
Kateria McCullough Reddick,
multiple myeloma patient
diagnosed at age 48
Finally, briefing attendees heard from two patients with multiple myeloma, Geri Smith-Benjamin and Kateria McCullough Reddick. Each shared her inspiring personal story of being diagnosed with and receiving treatment for myeloma, and the roadblocks they faced along the way.

They illustrated the challenges and opportunities discussed by other speakers, including a lengthy time between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis, and the benefits of enrolling in a clinical trial. Their moving and hilarious accounts provided two critical examples of what it’s like to live with myeloma.
The IMF would like to thank Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for providing us with an educational grant for this briefing.
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