It deeply troubles me to be in my fourth year surviving with stage IV lung cancer while others fail to get an early diagnosis, are denied treatments, and face discrimination because of the color of their skin.
In the fight against lung cancer, we can only claim victory if ALL of us equitably benefit from the research advances available today.
It is my privilege to bring together researchers, stakeholders, and the community for this crucial work, and I will get the job done.
I may not live to see the fruit of Project Equity, but when change is made, I will be in peace.
Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, PhD
by Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, PhD
Lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer death, disproportionately affects Black Americans, with Black men having the highest incidence and mortality rates among men and Black women having the highest mortality rates and the second highest in the rate of incidence among women. These higher morbidity and mortality rates are despite less smoking among Blacks than Whites. Lung cancer is also more likely to be in advanced stages when diagnosed in Black people than in Whites.
Health care access surely plays a role in lung cancer racial disparity. Black Americans are less likely to receive surgical treatment in early stages, and they receive CT screening less often as well. Aside from access, this disparity likely comes from multiple factors—biological, behavioral, physical, environmental, sociocultural, and the health care system—all pertinent on societal, community, interpersonal, and individual levels. Yet we still lack a comprehensive understanding of these factors and their mechanisms of action.
The purpose of Project Equity is to bring together a multidisciplinary research team and community stakeholders to understand and develop strategies for addressing the underlying factors and mechanisms of lung cancer disparities among Black Americans.
Project Equity has two specific objectives:
Project Equity’s founding investigator is Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, PhD, who is a stage IV lung cancer survivor, medical doctor, and researcher. His research has spanned lung cancer topics, including identifying unmet patient needs, improving care experiences, supporting people in building resilience, finding meaning with cancer, and exploring diagnosis pathways. He authored the book Roads to Meaning and Resilience with Cancer, based on interviews with 39 lung cancer patients.
Disclaimer: Donors do not gain tangible or intangible benefit from their contribution.