Teaming Up to Tackle Breast Cancer Disparities

Updated on November 7, 2023

Dolphins, AutoNation fund BCRF project at Sylvester to address links between social determinants of health, breast cancer deaths

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Neha Goel, MD, MPH

The Miami Dolphins and AutoNation have teamed up to fund a $1-million, four-year Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) project at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

This new partnership, led by Neha Goel, MD, MPH, Sylvester physician-scientist and social epidemiologist, will investigate critical health disparities that drive mortality among breast cancer patients.

The funding, Goel explained, will continue to support the Miami Breast Cancer Disparities Study, which she started three years ago to understand the multilevel, complex nature of disparities, with a particular focus on “understanding how where one lives impacts breast cancer outcomes.

“Our goals are to understand how neighborhood-level factors impact outcomes and, most importantly, operationalize our research findings to guide interventions leading to impactful change and ultimately eliminate these disparities,” said Goel, associate professor of surgery and the recently named John K. and Judy H. Schulte Endowed Chair in Cancer Research.

Dr. Goel’s research will help to define how one’s neighborhood impacts breast cancer, not only with regard to access to care, but also in terms of its influence over tumor characteristics and behavior and, ultimately, survival outcomes, said Dorraya El-Ashry, PhD, BCRF chief scientific officer. “We are so grateful for the commitment of our long-time partners at AutoNation and the support of Dolphins Challenge Cancer.”

Despite significant advances in breast cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment, women living in low-income neighborhoods have higher breast cancer mortality rates compared with those in affluent neighborhoods, Goel said, adding that drivers of this survival gap are complex and intrinsically linked to racial disparities in breast cancer outcomes. 

For example, Black women are 40% more likely to die from breast cancer than White women, despite having lower rates of incidence, while Hispanic and Latino women are more likely to be diagnosed at later stages with more aggressive forms of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

Goel believes her translational research will lead to better understanding of the underlying reasons for these disparities – and ways to prevent them – over time.

The DCC and AutoNation partnership to fund the BCRF project at Sylvester was formally recognized before kickoff at the Dolphins game on Sept. 24. Goel and Sylvester Director Stephen D. Nimer, MD, represented the cancer center during the ceremony, which featured a pink football presentation. Additionally, proceeds from the sale of certain Dolphins’ merchandise benefited the BCRF.

“These organizations are impactful players in the cancer research space and are truly leading by example in our shared quest to develop novel cancer-control interventions to improve the lives of all patients by ending cancer disparities,” Goel said.

Read more about the partnership on the InventUM blog.

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