News Release

USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center receives grant from The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation

The new Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention will aim to reduce cancer disparities in underserved communities in Los Angeles and surrounding areas.

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Southern California

The USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at Keck Medicine of USC has received a grant from The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation (RLCF) to launch a Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention, slated to open in the spring. This award is part of a $25 million overall commitment by the foundation to reduce cancer health disparities in underserved communities.

“We’re honored that our USC Norris cancer center is the first named cancer center in California to be selected for this generous and transformational award,” USC President Carol L. Folt said. “The Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention’s goal of breaking down barriers to cancer treatment aligns with USC’s deep commitment to making health care more accessible and equitable. This award will greatly benefit those in our community and further our ‘moonshot’ goal of transforming USC Health Science.”

“This new grant with The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation comes at a critical time for innovation to eliminate cancer health disparities,” said Steven Shapiro, USC’s senior vice president for health affairs. “With the development of our new Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention, the USC Norris cancer center and the Keck School of Medicine of USC continue a long history of being at the forefront of pursuing health equity in cancer screening, treatment and prevention in our surrounding communities.”

The Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., which opened in April, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Ralph Lauren Center in Harlem, N.Y., which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, also received Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation funding to address cancer health disparities in their surrounding communities.

“We have made great progress since I made a commitment to the fight against cancer more than 30 years ago but there is more to do, and we will continue expanding our efforts to make meaningful change for patients, their families and communities,” said Ralph Lauren, executive chairman and chief creative officer of Ralph Lauren Corp. and chair of The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation. “Around the country, from New York, to Washington, and now Los Angeles, we are working to reduce disparities in health care and improve access to high quality preventative care and treatment, making a real difference in the lives of the medically underserved. USC Norris sits in the heart of the community, making it possible to reach those who need support the most.”

Chanita Hughes-Halbert, the USC Norris cancer center’s inaugural associate director for cancer equity, will serve as the project director for the Ralph Lauren Center. “We’re grateful for this trust and funding from The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation,” said Hughes-Halbert, who also serves as vice chair for research in the Department of Population and Public Health Science at the Keck School of Medicine. “The Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention will enable us to integrate, synergize and expand our ongoing efforts in community outreach and patient navigation to improve cancer care delivery in Los Angeles County.”

The USC Norris cancer center will leverage this funding to increase access to high-quality cancer screening, prevention services and timely cancer care in L.A. County through an evidence-based approach for patient activation, workforce development and the coordination of cancer care services.

Through a collaboration with Los Angeles General Medical Center and three Federally Qualified Health Centers with more than 12 sites in high-need areas of L.A. County, the Ralph Lauren Center is intended to bridge the space between primary care (education and screening) and specialty care (follow-up screening and cancer treatment). In line with the USC Norris cancer center’s strategic priorities for cancer care, the Ralph Lauren Center will focus on addressing disparities in risk and outcomes for cancers of the cervix, breast, colon and lung.

“Our location in one of the most diverse counties in the country creates a mandate for us to address cancer health disparities in our multicultural community,” said Caryn Lerman, director of the USC Norris cancer center, associate dean for cancer programs at the Keck School of Medicine, and H. Leslie and Elaine S. Hoffman Chair in Cancer Research. “The generous support from The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation will enable us to make an even greater impact on our community, building upon the work of our exceptional scientists and clinicians who have led the way in understanding the causes of cancer disparities, from biology to society.”

As one of the first eight cancer centers to receive the coveted National Cancer Institute designation in 1973, the USC Norris cancer center has been identifying and addressing cancer health disparities for decades in L.A. County. The center has partnered with dozens of organizations, such as the Lazarex Cancer Foundation, to enhance its presence in surrounding communities and navigate historically underserved patients into life-saving clinical trials. As one example, roughly 60% of cancer patients enrolled in the center’s therapeutic clinical trials are from minority populations.

Addressing social drivers of cancer health disparities

The USC Norris cancer center team plans to use a novel approach to patient navigation that focuses on social determinants of health: non-medical risk factors that can influence health care access and outcomes. Funding from The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation’s grant will be used to build out a team of patient navigators — individuals who can work with patients to improve access to health and social services and adherence to medical treatment — who are trained to address social determinants of health that can fuel disparities.

Patient navigation is an evidence-based approach to reducing barriers to health care “across multiple types of services,” said Hughes-Halbert, who also said that the USC Norris cancer center is the first program in L.A. County to build a navigation team with this focus.

Hughes-Halbert believes that the USC Norris cancer center is the perfect site to advance The Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation’s efforts to eliminate disparities in cancer detection, treatment and outcomes. “At USC Norris, we reflect the diversity that exists in L.A. County,” she said. “We model that at every level of the organization, in terms of race and ethnicity and gender, and ‘walk the walk’ as it relates to health equity, diversity and inclusion.”

A competitive process

RLCF — in collaboration with Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, RLCF’s scientific partner — sets out to receive grant proposals from NCI-Designated Cancer Center programs through an invitation-only process targeted toward geographical areas and populations of special interest to improve cancer care and achieve health equity. Successful grantees are expected to create or enhance existing programs focused on patient navigation and cancer prevention, screening and treatment that address barriers to cancer care.

“Being selected as the first named Ralph Lauren Center on the West Coast illustrates our expertise and strength in minority health and cancer health equity,” Hughes-Halbert said. “Being located in L.A., the new center will further our ability to work across the region to improve our cancer health disparities.”

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.