Biostatistics team receives NCI grant to improve detection of racial disparities in cancer outcomes

Subha Guha
Dr. Subha Guha

A team led by researchers from the University of Florida, University of Michigan and Harvard University has received an approximately $1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop strategies to accurately identify racial disparities in cancer outcomes while accounting for social determinants, environmental forces and genetic factors.

“To improve health outcomes for all cancer patients, it is important to understand and eliminate racial disparities in screening, diagnosis and treatment, a crucial component of NIH’s new initiative of ending structural racism,” said Subha Guha, Ph.D., one of the project’s principal investigators and an associate professor in the department of biostatistics at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and UF College of Medicine. “Despite overall improvements in health research, ethnic or racial disparities continue to increase, suggesting deficiencies in research designs for understanding disparities.”

The research team notes as an example that compared to the U.S. Census, most observational cancer studies have been found to overrepresent Whites and underrepresent African Americans and Asians.

“How to utilize these studies to detect and understand racial disparities remains challenging,” said Guha, also a member of the UF Health Cancer Center.

To help address these challenges, Guha and his colleagues will leverage large information-rich databases such as the Boston Lung Cancer Survival Cohort and the International Lung Cancer Consortium to create new frameworks for data analysis. The methods they plan to develop aim to effectively identify racial disparities in cancer outcomes by integrating high-dimensional observational studies with multiple racial groups. The resulting methods will be made available to the broader research community through open-source software.

“These approaches will generate statistical findings generalizable to a realistic and inclusive natural population,” Guha said.