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A team of researchers from Wayne State University and the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute are investigating the combined role that community, interpersonal and individual influences have on the health-related quality of life for African-American cancer survivors, and how those influences create racial health disparities between African-Americans and White survivors.

The team includes Felicity W.K. Harper, Ph.D., associate professor of oncology in the Wayne State School of Medicine and the Karmanos Cancer Institute; Malcolm P. Cutchin, Ph.D., professor in the Institute of Gerontology and the Department of Health Care Sciences in Wayne State’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences; and Hayley Thompson, Ph.D., professor of oncology in the School of Medicine and associate center director for community outreach and engagement at Karmanos. African-Americans have the lowest survival rate of any racial or ethnic group in the United States for most cancers.

These differences are often due to socioeconomic disparities that result in unequal access to medical care, health insurance, healthy food and more, says a report from the Historically Black College (HBCU). African Americans who survive cancer also have the shortest survival of any racial/ethnic group in the United States for most cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.

The Wayne study, “ARISE: African-American Resilience in Surviving Cancer,” is a five-year, $3.1 million project funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health that aims to identify targets of change and inform the development of interventions to address causes of poorer health-related quality of life experienced by African-American cancer survivors. The study is recruiting 600 African-American cancer survivors living in metropolitan Detroit.

The team will work to create a theoretically and community-grounded model of variability in health-related quality of life in African-American survivors. They will evaluate the success of the collaboration with a systematic evaluation of community stakeholders’ perceptions of — and attitudes toward — the collaboration experience. They will also collaborate with community stakeholders to disseminate study findings to scientific and lay audiences, translate study findings and inform future interventions. This study is said to be innovative because it will involve community stakeholders in aspects of the work typically limited to academics.

The paths through which race-related community, interpersonal and individual domains of influence may affect the health-related quality of life of African-American survivors has not been comprehensively studied, nor has there been a strong community engagement to develop and test a social-ecological model with follow-up to disseminate study findings with the community.

“With this award, we have the unique opportunity to assess various levels of factors that potentially affect the quality of life for African-American cancer survivors,” said Cutchin, a member of the research team. “Those factors range from neighborhood conditions to experiences of racial discrimination to personal optimism. I’m very excited to work with this team and have a chance to inform future interventions for this population.”