Sylvester Team Leads Talks on Cancer Disparities for People of African Descent

In an effort to promote health equity worldwide, Sylvester researchers gathered in Kenya to present cancer findings on disparities and outcomes among populations of African descent.

Researchers and clinicians from Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, played leading roles at the African Caribbean Cancer Consortium (AC3) conference held recently in Mombasa, Kenya.

A group of health care providers talking at a table at the AC3 conference.
The African Caribbean Cancer Consortium brought together cancer experts from 17 countries, with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center a co-sponsor.

“The consortium’s mission is to understand issues that are cancer-specific to populations across the African diaspora, and to promote equitable outcomes,” said Sophia George, Ph.D., Sylvester’s associate director for diversity, equity and inclusion and associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences in the Miller School’s Division of Gynecologic Oncology. “South Florida’s diverse Black populations face higher risks of cancer, and one of Sylvester’s core missions is to address that health disparity.”

More than 200 participants from 17 countries attended AC3’s eighth biennial, including faculty and trainees from Sylvester, a co-sponsor of the meeting.

“The goal of this meeting was to study viral, genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors for cancer risk and outcomes in populations of African descent,” said Matthew P. Schlumbrecht, M.D., M.P.H., professor of clinical obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences, and vice chair of global and community health.

“Participation in this meeting demonstrates Sylvester’s commitment and engagement in cancer prevention and treatment across the globe,” said Dr. Schlumbrecht. “Importantly, it underscores Sylvester’s recognition that understanding the experience of cancer across persons of African descent will allow us to more effectively provide personalized care for these patients.”

Sylvester’s Leadership in Africa-focused Cancer Research

Calling the conference “a convergence point” for researchers from North America, the Caribbean and Africa, Paulo S. Pinheiro, M.D., Ph.D., research professor of epidemiology, said Sylvester plays a prominent role in AC3 initiatives, particularly in gynecological, breast and liver cancers.

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers Patricia Jones, Matthew Schlumbrecht, Patricia George, Patricia Jeudin, and Paulo Pinheiro
Sylvester at AC3: Drs. Patricia Jones, Matthew Schlumbrecht, Sophia George, Patricia Jeudin, and Paulo Pinheiro

For instance, Dr. George co-leads the AC3’s Women’s Cancer Research Working Group. Her presentation summarizing studies of prostate and breast cancer genomes reflects her research experience in these fields. She also took part in the capacity-building sessions on screening, prevention, treatment and survivorship topics, including grant-writing support.

AC3 attendee Patricia Jeudin, M.D., a Sylvester gynecologic oncologist and assistant professor at the Miller School, said the conference’s Sylvester contingent showcased its devotion to the international community of cancer patients.

“AC3 is an organization dedicated to addressing the cancer burden in the African diaspora. I truly enjoyed attending the conference this year and making connections with researchers from across the globe,” she said. “Sylvester’s representation at this conference is a testament to our commitment in serving the most vulnerable populations.”

Patricia Jones, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the Division of Digestive Health and Liver Diseases, co-chaired the conference’s Liver Cancer Working Group and gave a lecture on the epidemiology of hepatocellular carcinoma in the global Black community.

She noted that the working group discussed a number of research projects, including a sweeping review of the incidence and survival of liver cancer patients of African descent.

“We presented the results of this work and sought input regarding future research projects,” Dr. Jones said. “Many participants are interested in the role of hepatitis B and aflatoxins in development of liver cancer.”

Cancer Research at the Miller School

In his conference presentation, Dr. Schlumbrecht discussed inequities in clinical trials and considerations for screening, early detection and survivorship care in low- and middle-income countries, as well as Sylvester’s research projects.

Dr. Pinheiro’s research has centered on population-based disparities in cancer incidence, mortality and survival among African American, Caribbean and African populations in the United States. At AC3, his presentation delved into adult T-cell lymphoma leukemia (ATLL), a rare cancer.

Sylvester researcher Pauolo Pinheiro presenting at AC3
Dr. Pinheiro noted that Afro-Caribbean populations in the United States are particularly vulnerable to adult T-cell lymphoma leukemia.

“Unlike the majority of cancers, where U.S.-born, Black individuals often exhibit significantly higher rates than their counterparts, ATLL presents a distinctive vulnerability among Afro-Caribbean populations in the United States,” he said. “The next phase of our research involves extending this study and exploring public health measures that have the potential to reduce this excess risk in a cancer of very poor prognosis, with limited treatment options.”

Alex Sanchez-Covarrubias, a doctoral candidate in the Miller School’s cancer biology program, spoke about the science of single-cell and spatial omics approaches at AC3.

Summing up the meeting, conference co-chair Dr. Samuel Gathere of the Kenya Medical Research Institute said, “We in the AC3 leadership team are grateful for the hard work and dedication of all our AC3 members who share our mission and vision to increase health equity for all the African diaspora.”

Tags: Dr. Matthew Schlumbrecht, Dr. Patricia Jones, Dr. Paulo Pinheiro, Dr. Sophia George, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center