Nov. 20, 2020

2020 Winship Scientific Symposium examines cancer disparities

Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms kicked off the symposium with a Community Charge.

Physicians, researchers, and students from schools and organizations throughout Atlanta and Georgia participated in Winship's 2020 Annual Scientific Symposium, "Addressing Disparities in Cancer Outcomes in Georgia," held on Nov. 16 – 17. As a nationally-recognized leader in cancer research and patient care, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University (Winship) is uniquely positioned to examine how race, socioeconomic status, health literacy and other factors contribute to disparities in cancer outcomes and work towards addressing those disparities.

The symposium kicked off with a Community Charge by Mayor of Atlanta Keisha Lance Bottoms who emphasized the importance of the topic for Atlanta and all of Georgia. Winship epidemiologist Kevin Ward, PhD, MPH, director of the Georgia Center for Cancer Statistics, gave a keynote address with statistical data showing how poverty, in particular, contributes to high cancer incidence and fatality rates, leading to more than 17,000 Georgians dying each year from cancer.

"With the high proportion of minority patients in our catchment area, Winship is strongly invested in addressing cancer disparities in Georgia," says Winship Deputy Director Suresh S. Ramalingam, MD, the Roberto C. Goizueta Distinguished Chair for Cancer Research and director of the Winship Lung Cancer Program. "The symposium featured discussions on several key factors that underlie disparities in cancer outcomes, and identified scientific and clinical priorities that will help change the current landscape."

Speakers addressed cancer disparities among patients with ovarian, breast, prostate, colorectal, or lung cancer or multiple myeloma, as well as issues of health literacy, insurance status, and differences in survivorship outcomes related to treatment adherence and comorbidity conditions. Several ongoing efforts of Winship members to address these disparities were highlighted. Breakout sessions tackled disparities in prevention, access to treatment, survivorship outcomes, and the biological aspects of cancer disparities.

The second day of the Symposium featured a keynote address, "Cancer Control in the 21st Century," by Otis Brawley, MD, professor of oncology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Brawley emphasized the role of socioeconomic status, more than race or ethnicity, in cancer disparities. Earlier in the day, trainees and early career oncologists attended a special “Training and Education” panel discussion, geared toward career development.

More than 150 people registered for the symposium from schools and organizations throughout Georgia, including Clark Atlanta University, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, Emory University, the American Cancer Society, Northeast Georgia Health Systems, and others.

"I applaud the calls from many speakers to provide Georgians with resources to better prevention, earlier diagnoses, and access to advanced treatments," said Winship Executive Director Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, the Lawrence W. Davis Chair in Radiation Oncology and the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Chair in Cancer Research. "As Georgia's National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Winship researchers and physicians bring a depth of knowledge and expertise to the problems of disparities in cancer outcomes that will make a difference for people throughout Georgia and the U.S."

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