New $1 Million Stand Up to Cancer Grant Aims to Improve Lung Cancer Care in Underserved Minority Patients

Columbia Cancer is part of an initiative to establish the Lung Cancer Health Equity SU2C Catalyst Research Team.

June 27, 2022
Doctor in white lab coat speaking to a patient.

Brian Henick, MD, assistant professor of medicine, is a team principal of the new Lung Cancer Health Equity SU2C Catalyst Research Team. (Photo: Chris Taggart)

A team of New York City lung cancer experts have received a three-year, $1 million grant from Stand Up To Cancer® (SU2C) to bring technology-enabled immunotherapy monitoring to under-represented patient populations. The grant will establish the Lung Cancer Health Equity SU2C Catalyst® Research Team. 

Partners in the initiative, led by investigators at NYU Langone Health’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, include the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, Tisch Cancer Institute, and Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center

The grant is made possible by the support of Bristol Myers Squibb and is a part of SU2C’s Health Equity Initiative. Announced in 2020, the initiative focuses on increasing diversity in cancer clinical trials, initiating advocacy group collaborations and awareness campaigns, and funding research aimed at improving cancer outcomes and screening rates in medically underserved communities. 

The team will use an artificial intelligence (AI)-assisted smartphone and web-based app to monitor the side effects of immunotherapy treatment in a highly diverse population of people in New York City with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Underserved minority patients with NSCLC treated with immunotherapy face numerous barriers to using technology to report adverse effects. The project aims to evaluate barriers to the adoption of technology, determine the impact of using technology-enabled remote monitoring, and enhance the overall quality of care for these patients.

To accomplish this, the four institutions will enact a community outreach plan involving community physicians, patient advocates, and other community leaders to implement and conduct the study.  

Vamsidhar Velcheti, MD, professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and director of the Thoracic Medical Oncology Program at Perlmutter Cancer Center, is the project team leader. Rajwanth Veluswamy, MD, assistant professor of medicine, hematology, and medical oncology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, serves as team co-leader. Team principals are Balazs Halmos, MD, professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and associate director of clinical science at the Montefiore Einstein Cancer Center, and Brian Henick, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

"While immunotherapy has transformed care for patients with lung cancer, many experience side effects that can be serious. Critically, few patients from underserved minority communities were included in the trials that led to these drugs' approvals, so characterizing their effects on such patients is an open question in the field," says Dr. Henick, who is a member of the HICCC's Tumor Biology and Microenvironment research program. "This new collaboration between our institutions, forged around understanding the impact of immunotherapy on patients from underserved communities, will help to facilitate enhanced clinical and translational research for this population, and hopefully promote precision strategies to improve the care we provide."

The project centers around a study using a smartphone and web-based app developed by Apricity Health called ApricityCare to report the side effects of immunotherapy treatment in NSCLC patients who identify as racial or ethnic minorities. The researchers plan to enroll 500 patients in the catchment areas of the four academic medical centers in New York City. Patients will report symptoms via mobile app, text, or phone, and a team of trained nurses will be available around the clock virtually to address issues reported by patients.

The ApricityCare technology will make patients visible to the study team, enabling the identification of patients who will benefit from molecular testing or should be considered for enrollment in clinical trials, which historically have been underutilized in minority populations. In addition, the project aims to engage with patients and monitor their health status, which creates an opportunity to assess real-world best practices.