Expanding Global Impact Through Collaboration to Improve Breast Cancer Care in Latin America

Sep 22, 2023

By Katherine H. Crawford, MA, PMP, ASCO Communications

Further deepening ASCO’s longstanding ties with oncology communities in Latin America, the Society has announced nine recipients of a new grant to support metastatic breast cancer care in the region. This announcement marks yet another milestone in ASCO’s global pursuit, guided by its Five-Year Strategic Plan, of a world where cancer is prevented or cured and every survivor is healthy.

ASCO believes that the most effective way to achieve these goals is to listen to, engage, and support the organization’s members who are providing clinical care in their communities. Breast cancer remains the most common type of cancer for women in Latin America, and most cases are diagnosed at a late stage. In response, Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, in collaboration with Pfizer Global Medical Grants, recently announced new grants totaling $1 million for projects that will improve the care of patients with metastatic breast cancer (mBC).

The “Improving Metastatic Breast Cancer (mBC) Patient Quality of Care and Equity in Latin America” grant will support nine projects in seven countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. These projects use novel approaches to address inequities and improve the quality of care for patients with mBC, ultimately helping health care providers deliver the best treatment to each patient at the optimal time.

“We are excited to be a part of supporting the oncology research community in Latin America and helping clinicians study ways to provide the best possible care,” said ASCO chief medical officer and executive vice president Julie R. Gralow, MD, FACP, FASCO. “Developing new strategies to address gaps in care is a crucial step in improving the quality of care for patients with cancer, and this funding will directly support advancements in breast cancer care.”

The grant was initiated in late 2022 when Pfizer Global Medical Grants approached Conquer Cancer with an opportunity to make an impact in Latin America, as the company was seeking to help address mBC in the region. Serendipitously, ASCO had recently established its Latin American Regional Council. Pfizer proposed a partnership in which the company would provide funding to support innovative approaches to diagnosing inequities and improving the quality of mBC patient care in Latin America, and Conquer Cancer would provide project management expertise and advisory services to support the grant’s objectives. The Latin America Regional Council would be responsible for determining the goals of the grant and the grant review and selection.

This is the second partnership between Conquer Cancer and Pfizer Global Medical Grants, powered by Conquer Cancer’s EveryGrant program. The EveryGrant program is designed to help organizations develop and deliver grant programs that attract the brightest researchers and make a difference for people with cancer everywhere. The first collaboration in 2021 supported six research projects to identify disparities in care delivery and treatment outcomes for patients with mBC from underrepresented groups across the United States. The success of that collaboration led to the latest grant with the same goal of improving patient care but now on a global scale.

In developing the grant program for Latin America, Pfizer relied on Conquer Cancer’s EveryGrant for project management and partnered with ASCO’s Latin America Regional Council to provide expertise in every step of the process from developing the Request for Proposals (RFP), to promoting the opportunity throughout the region, to evaluating the proposals and selecting the recipients. This ensured that the funded projects would truly reflect the needs of patients with mBC in the region.

“We have been very fortunate to work with Pfizer on this program; they allowed the Council to develop a grant by the people and for the people of Latin America,” said Latin America Regional Council chair Claudio Martin, MD. “I am excited about the impact we will make together.”

ASCO’s Regional Councils guide the application of ASCO programs, products, and services to address barriers to quality cancer care and support ASCO members in their regions. They also help members get involved in ASCO initiatives and serve as liaisons between ASCO and their national societies. There are currently regional councils in Latin America, Asia Pacific, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The “Improving Metastatic Breast Cancer (mBC) Patient Quality of Care and Equity in Latin America” grant RFP received more than 60 applications. Nine grants were awarded to the following investigators:

Ingiborg Araya, MD, PhD, of Grupo Oncologico Cooperativo Chileno de Investigacion (GOCCHI), Chile

“Pattern of Care of Metastatic Breast Cancer in Five Latin American Countries”—an analysis of patterns of breast cancer care in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay to improve understanding of the disparities in access to palliative care, radiotherapy, and systemic treatment following breast cancer recurrence and how these correlate with patient outcomes.

“The greatest impact is that this would be one of the most comprehensive studies in the characterization of patients with metastatic breast cancer in Latin America and with the longest follow-up time (15 years),” said Dr. Araya. “This information will allow us to identify both the risk factors and the possible shortcomings in health care that determine the prognosis of these patients in our region. By generating real-world data, identifying gaps in care, and providing evidence-based policy recommendations, we aim to make a meaningful impact on the care and outcomes of patients with metastatic breast cancer in the region, and to advance in academic research in collaboration with multiple institutions and organizations.”

Gustavo Arruda, MD, PhD, of University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

“Evaluating the Influence and Interaction Between Patient, Tumor Characteristics, and Social Determinants of Health on Survival of Metastatic Breast Cancer in Patients From a Latin American Country: A Population Study”—an analysis of how social determinants of health interact with clinical characteristics to impact breast cancer outcomes with the goal of developing evidence for policymakers so they can create strategies to address disparities in care by focusing on social factors.

Yanin Chavarri Guerra, MD, of Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Medicas y Nutricion Salvador Zubirán, Mexico

“Social Determinants of Health and Disparities in Cancer Care for Patients With Metastatic Breast Cancer in Mexico”—a multicenter, prospective cohort study to characterize the social determinants of health among patients with mBC in Mexico and analyze how these factors correlate with patient outcomes with the goal of developing a comprehensive map of the factors associated with poor outcomes among these patients to inform future programs for improving quality and access to care.

Valeria Colomo Costas, MD, of Grupo de Estudios Clínicos Oncológicos del Perú, Peru

“Mobile Application: ‘mamaCARE’ Digital Tool for Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients”—a new mobile application, mamaCARE, that will provide patients with virtual access to medical oncologists to provide diagnostic assistance, follow-up, and symptom monitoring. By leveraging telehealth and e-health tools, mamaCARE can improve the management of care and the quality of life for mBC patients.

“mamaCARE aims to overcome health access barriers by virtually extending services nationwide, promoting equity in care for patients with breast cancer, and transcending the geographic, cultural, and ethnic barriers that exist in the country,” said Dr. Colomo. “mamaCARE is poised to elevate cancer care standards across the country by breaking down geographical and language barriers, and promoting equity in access to health care services.”

Maria Gonzalez Donna, MD, Instituto Nacional del Cáncer (INCAN), Paraguay

“Network Implementation for the Orientation and Prompt Attention of Patients with Diagnosis or Suspicion of Metastatic Breast Cancer (RACAM)”—a new rapid care network for patients with advanced breast cancer within the National Cancer Institute of Paraguay that will leverage this existing network of health professionals, navigators, patient associations, radiologists, and pathologists to reduce treatment delays among patients with mBC in the public health care system.

Jorge Luis Hidalgo, MD, Fundación Centro Oncológico de Integración Regional (COIR), Argentina

“Inequities in the Comprehensive Management of Patients With Advanced or Locally Advanced Breast Cancer”—a multidisciplinary approach to improving quality of life for patients with mBC in Argentina, this program aims to: 1) accurately diagnose the inequity in access to supportive care according to the different coverages (public, prepaid, social works) of patients with advanced or locally advanced breast cancer; 2) influence regional health policies; 3) educate patients and health providers on the benefit of this interdisciplinary approach and their right to access it; and 4) develop patient navigators to facilitate patients access to care.

Amalia Hosein, PhD, The University of Trinidad & Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago

“Improving Metastatic Breast Cancer (mBC) Quality of Care and Equity in the Caribbean”—an evaluation of patients with mBC across six Caribbean territories to identify the gaps that impact patient care that will be used to develop a culturally tailored navigation program that will be implemented across the Caribbean to improve patient care.

Maria Jimena Montoya, RN, Universidad CES, Colombia

“Navigation Strategy, Self-Management, and Support for Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer in Colombia”—a comprehensive approach, new to Columbia, that will implement patient navigation, self-management, and social support strategies to improve the management of care and outcomes for patients with mBC.

Gustavo Sandival, MD, Hospital Regional Guillermo Diaz de la Vega, Peru

“Integration Plan of a Palliative Medicine Program for a Patient With Metastatic Breast Cancer in Southern Peru”—a new palliative care model for patients with mBC in impoverished areas of Peru that will integrate palliative care into mBC patient care in a timely manner to improve treatment adherence and quality of life.

Over the next 18 months, the grant recipients will work on their projects and implement plans to sustain the programs to ensure this funding benefits patients with mBC beyond the grant period. ASCO and Pfizer plan to convene the recipients at a future meeting to share their work and promote collaboration across the region. Moreover, the success of this grant bundle has led Pfizer to expand the program to the Asia Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa regions. ASCO’s regional councils in these two regions are following and building upon the model established by the Latin America Regional Council to support quality-improvement and capacity-building projects in these regions will have maximum benefit for patients.

“We are extremely proud to be able to support this unprecedented partnership with ASCO, Conquer Cancer, and the Latin America Regional Council to develop, launch, and select these valuable independent medical projects focused on improving the quality of care and equity of breast cancer management in our countries with the ultimate goal to positively impact patients’ lives and improve healthcare in the region,” said Miguel Briceno, MD, Pfizer regional director for medical grants, Latin America.

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