UMMS researchers collaborating to reduce disparities in breast cancer care

Partnering with Boston medical schools, Stephenie Lemon will lead UMMS team in developing implementation science for $8.75M grant

By Ellie Castano

UMass Medical School Communications

December 07, 2017
  Stephenie Lemon, PhD

Stephenie Lemon, PhD

Stephenie Lemon, PhD, is a principal investigator on an $8.75 million grant from the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences to demonstrate the feasibility of community–academic partnerships to provide innovations in information sharing and systems implementation that will translate into reductions in health disparities for vulnerable patients facing any disease.

The five-year grant funds a project called Translating Research Into Practice (TRIP). TRIP will be implemented across six clinical sites in Boston to develop and sustain a replicable, high-quality coordination of care across Boston for vulnerable populations experiencing disparities in breast cancer care. The UMass Medical School team, led by Dr. Lemon, professor of medicine in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine and co-director of community engagement at the UMass Center for Clinical and Translational Science, is the implementation science lead on the project. It is charged with leading the development of a model of care that can be sustained beyond the study and disseminated to other locations.

In addition to Lemon, TRIP is led by principal investigators Jennifer Haas, MD, MPH, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Catalyst (the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center); Tracy Battaglia, MD, MPH, of Boston University Clinical and Translational Science Institute; and Karen Freund, MD, MPH, of Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

African American women with breast cancer face disparities in time to treatment, quality of treatment and delayed follow up to abnormal tests. Although breast cancer mortality rates have declined significantly in the United States, African American women have a 40 percent higher chance of dying from breast cancer than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Boston, African American women are 25 percent more likely to die from the disease, according to the Boston Public Health Commission.

“Though the project is specific to African American women with breast cancer, we are developing a collaborative model of care across multiple hospital systems that aims to reduce gaps and disparities in care,” said Lemon. “The model itself is innovative and has application to different populations and disease conditions. If we find this model to be effective, it has potential to transform collaborative care delivery for other disease conditions and locations.”

The TRIP intervention, with a goal of assisting 1,100 women in Boston who are seeking breast cancer care over the next five years, includes three evidence-based strategies that are known to reduce delays in care but that have failed to make it into practice because of persistent patient and health system barriers. Strategies include:

      • A navigator for every patient to solve problems and provide support and guidance through the complex health care system;
      • A regional registry to help providers and navigators track their patients; and
      • Resources to help navigators identify social determinants of health (e.g., food and housing insecurity).

Patients will be enrolled from six sites including, Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Tufts Medical Center.