Please note that some translations using Google Translate may not be accurately represented and downloaded documents cannot be translated. Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund assume no liability for inaccuracies that may result from using this third-party tool, which is for website translation.
Please note that some translations using Google Translate may not be accurately represented and downloaded documents cannot be translated. Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund assume no liability for inaccuracies that may result from using this third-party tool, which is for website translation.

Eliminating disparities to improve outcomes

Spring 2024
By Elina Tonkova
Photography by Sam Ogden and Bryce Vickmark

A head shot photo of a doctor
Christopher Lathan, MD, MS, MPH

With philanthropic support from the Scarlet Feather Fund, Dana-Farber’s Kira Bona, MD, MPH, and Christopher Lathan, MD, MS, MPH, chief clinical access and equity officer and the Hadley Family Chair at Dana-Farber, are leading bold, innovative approaches that aim to reduce disparities in outcomes for adult and pediatric cancer patients. In the United States, longstanding structural inequities drive social determinants of health—the conditions and environments in which people are born, live, and work—resulting in striking disparities in cancer incidence and outcomes. As an international leader across the continuum of cancer research and care, Dana-Farber is dedicated to being on the forefront of initiatives aimed at reducing disparities and ensuring that expert, innovative, and compassionate care is accessible and effective for everyone.

In the adult cancer setting, Lathan and the Cancer Care Equity Program (CCEP) team aim to provide those who have been historically excluded from receiving equitable access to health care with streamlined pathways to Dana-Farber’s expert and integrated care. Key initiatives of the CCEP include the expansion of Dana-Farber’s community-focused patient navigators who identify and engage—as early as possible—those patients facing socioeconomic and structural barriers to care who would benefit from rapid, personalized support.

Kira Bona, MD, MPH

The Scarlet Feather Fund’s gift is also supporting the launch of a pilot “Ambulatory Safety Net” focused on mitigating risk of missed and delayed cancer screening and follow-up to abnormal test results. This new pilot program, planned in collaboration with community hospital partners of Dana-Farber – Merrimack Valley, one of Dana-Farber’s regional campuses serving the Institute’s largest population of historically marginalized patients, will help ensure the timely completion of cancer screening and connection to specialty care. Lastly, the gift will assist with the expansion of CCEP’s on-site cancer diagnostics clinics at Federally Qualified Health Centers.

Bona’s research has shown that children with cancer who live in poverty have higher rates of relapse and lower survival, even when treated on the same clinical trials. How pediatric oncologists can intervene to mitigate this risk of relapse is the focus of research being supported by the Scarlet Feather Fund. The gift supports Bona’s team in developing the first health equity interventions ever designed or tested in childhood cancer that target risk factors like food or transportation insecurity—a process similar to developing new drugs to target tumor characteristics. “This funding is speeding the development of a portfolio of these novel interventions,” says Bona, “and has concurrently allowed us to strategize how we will sustain effective pediatric health equity interventions once we develop them.” 

Philanthropy is critical to the success of these care and research initiatives. By supporting these projects, the Scarlet Feather Fund and other philanthropic partners are strengthening Dana-Farber’s ability to ensure that adult and pediatric patients from historically marginalized communities have equitable paths to defy cancer.

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