Stand Up To Cancer, Exact Sciences, and Providence have teamed up to roll out a new initiative designed to address colorectal cancer disparities. With $6 million in funding from Exact Sciences and $2 million from Providence, the SU2C Colorectal Cancer Health Equity Dream Team "will bring together leading researchers, patient advocates, community leaders, and clinicians to accomplish several goals, including improving colorectal cancer screening in medically underserved communities," a press release obtained by EBONY explains.

Dream Team leadership, which includes Dr. Jennifer Haas, Dr. Folasade P. May, Dr. Anton Bilchik, were chosen for the initiative due to their "deep understanding of racial/ethnic minority communities and health inequities."

“We are incredibly excited for this Dream Team’s impressive expertise and goals; their work will be vital to SU2C’s Health Equity Initiative and will also launch the creation of SU2C Zones, which we hope to extend to other communities and cancer types in the future,” said Sung Poblete, PhD, RN, CEO of SU2C, in a media statement. “This is truly a unique approach that will build on SU2C’s strong colorectal cancer research portfolio, serve as a blueprint for future SU2C Zones, and further our collaboration with Exact Sciences and Providence to ensure that less people are impacted by colorectal cancer, which is preventable and treatable with regular screening.”

The initiative will consist of "robust" screening efforts, cancer research, education, and training programs. To start, three SU2C zones will be rolled out in Greater Boston, Los Angeles, and Great Plains Tribal Communities in South Dakota. Goals of the program include increasing colorectal cancer screening rates to 80 percent by way of introducing at-home stool-based screening programs at community centers, responding to abnormal screening results with colonoscopies, and building a reserve of blood and stool samples that will be used for future research to ensure that minority groups are "represented in the development of new screening tests and early detection methods for colorectal cancer." Further, the program will invest in the careers of Black, Latino, and American Indian doctors.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a dramatic drop in colorectal cancer screening,” said Dr. Haas, the Peter L. Gross MD Chair in Primary Care at Massachusetts General Hospital, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “While we’ve seen some colorectal cancer screening rates rebound more recently, overall the impact of COVID-19 on Black, Indigenous, and people of color is dire and compounds the low cancer screening rates and poorer cancer outcomes seen before the pandemic. Our team is committed to empowering healthcare providers who serve these communities by providing tools and strategies, as well as community engagement, to pave the way for national efforts that effectively address screening disparities across the country.”

The United States Preventative Services Task Force has lowered the colorectal cancer screening age from 50 to 45 for people at average risk for the disease Colorectal cancer is the second most common form of cancer. Despite being preventable and treatable with regular screenings, colorectal cancer-related deaths are the highest among Black Americans.

To learn more about the SU2C Colorectal Cancer Health Equity Dream Team, click here.