Nexus - Winter 2002 Issue      
Dr. Ralph V. Katz directs the new center.
NYUCD has received an $8.3 million award from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to establish the NYU Oral Cancer Disparities Research Center. This award places NYUCD in the vanguard of a national effort to redress disparities in our nation’s health.

The NYU Oral Cancer Disparities Research Center is one of five new Centers for Research to Reduce Oral Health Disparities funded by the NIDCR in partnership with the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Collaborating with NYU on the Center are Boston University, Howard University, The Johns Hopkins University, the University of Pittsburgh, Tuskegee University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the University of Puerto Rico, the Puerto Rican Health Department, and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

While the research focuses on identifying factors contributing to oral cancer disparities, as well as on developing and testing new strategies for eliminating them, the project also has the goal of providing training and career development opportunities for scientists in underrepresented groups and others interested in establishing careers in oral cancer disparities research.

“I am convinced that enacting a national oral cancer agenda requires academic dental centers to develop mechanisms that will assure a sustainable increase in the number of people conducting research to eradicate oral cancer disparities,” said Dean Alfano.

Oral cancer, like many diseases, takes a disproportionate toll on minorities. African-American males suffer the highest incidence of any group in the United States. Puerto Rican males residing in Puerto Rico also have a disproportionately high incidence of the disease.

Failure to diagnose oral cancers in their earliest stages is probably the greatest factor contributing to poor treatment outcomes,” said Dr. Ralph V. Katz, who heads the NYU Oral Cancer Disparities Research Center. “Our research will determine why minorities do not get oral cancer exams that might pick up the earliest signs of the disease. We will look at differences in willingness to participate in cancer screening exams among African Americans, Puerto Ricans residing in Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans residing on the U.S. mainland, and whites. In addition to investigating clinical scientific questions, our researchers will look at current and emerging technologies for detecting oral cancers. We will also look for ways to alter behavior to reduce risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol use. One project, for example, will study smoking cessation interventions conducted during patient visits to the NYU Dental Clinics.”

The NYU Oral Cancer Disparities Research Center will also collaborate with the newly established National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health at Tuskegee University in supporting research on bioethical issues related to dentistry.