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IMPACT grant addresses racial disparities in blood cancer discovery

September 30, 2021 | Leigh MacMillan

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society recently selected a Vanderbilt University Medical Center-led effort for one of its first IMPACT grants (Influential Medicine Providing Access to Clinical Trials). A goal of the five-year initiative is to increase clinical trial enrollment from underrepresented communities to at least 20%.

Michael Savona, MD, professor of Medicine at VUMC, is leading the Vanderbilt project.

“Addressing disparities in access and outcomes is part of our core mission in Hematology and across the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center,” Savona says. “Clinical trials are the leading edge of new therapy development, and nowhere is this more clear than in hematologic malignancies for which VUMC investigators have contributed to the approval of over a dozen new therapies for leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma in just the past three years.

“The IMPACT program is exciting as it engineers a focus on sharing this successful approach of novel clinical trial development away from the hub of the Medical Center.”

Savona has treated the first patients in the world in clinical trials for hematologic malignancies with multiple therapies now approved for use.

As part of the IMPACT program, VUMC researchers also will enroll underrepresented patients in the collaborative effort CHIVE (Clonal Hematopoiesis and Inflammation in the VasculaturE). Clonal hematopoiesis — blood mutations that increase risk for blood cancers and other diseases — has not been well studied in racially diverse populations, and the mutations that drive increased risk may be different, Savona says.