The Cancer Control Research Program focuses on two broad areas:
1) identifying and reducing health disparities in pediatric cancer care in Texas;
2) improving long-term outcomes for childhood cancer survivors and their families. The goal of this program is to help eliminate the occurrence and burden of childhood cancer.
Over the past three decades, great strides have been made in improving the survival of childhood cancer. Clinical research as shifted focus from improving survival to improving the quality of survival, especially for malignancies where we have achieved very high survival rates. Overall as a result of improved therapy and diagnosis, nearly 75% of all children diagnosed today will be “cured” of their cancer. Unfortunately, these cures often come at great cost. There are many short- and long-term complications related to cancer therapy. There are physical effects such as impaired neurocognitive, cardiac, pulmonary and endocrine functioning, energy balance-related morbidity, infertility, hearing loss, and increased risk of second malignant neoplasms, as well as psychosocial effects for the patient and other family members. There are also formidable barriers to health services, including the lack of future insurability for cancer survivors and the provision of appropriate health services as survivors transition from childhood to adulthood. We seek to develop appropriate methods, along with the development of the data system infrastructure, to evaluate the long-term impact of cancer therapy and inform health policy. We seek to identify the determinants of long-term complications and to develop interventions to prevent their occurrence or to ameliorate their impact.
There are disparities in the delivery of healthcare care throughout the United States. Texas has a geographically, economically, ethnically and culturally diverse population. It remains unknown what the relationship is between this diversity and health disparities for children with cancer or at risk for cancer. The effect of disparities may be felt at multiple levels including as they relate to cancer susceptibility, the diagnostic process, treatment and long-term outcomes. Reduced access has been reported for adolescents and minority populations exerting an effect throughout the entire continuum of care, from initial diagnosis, through active cancer treatment, and extending to follow-up into adulthood years for long-term survivors. We seek to identify and eliminate these barriers for our South Texas pediatric population.