Markey Receives Merck Foundation Grant to Advance Equitable Cancer Care in Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Kentucky (October 7, 2022) — The Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky received a grant through the Alliance for Equity in Cancer Care (the Alliance), an initiative funded by the Merck Foundation (the Foundation). The Alliance is designed to make cancer care more equitable in the United States by helping patients who live in underserved communities have timely access to high-quality, culturally appropriate care.

Nearly 40% of Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. Members of racial and ethnic minorities, those living in rural areas, low-income people and the uninsured are disproportionately affected by cancer, but often have limited access to cancer screening, care and treatment. cancer.

Kentucky consistently carries one of the highest cancer burdens in the nation—ranking first in the world for new cancer cases and deaths—with more than 30,000 new cases and more than 10,100 deaths each year. Additionally, the Commonwealth has significant cancer-related disparities among rural, Appalachian, Black, and Hispanic populations.

Grantees of the Alliance program will strive to improve the coordination of patient care, from diagnosis to survivorship; strengthen patient engagement in treatment decisions and overall patient-provider communication; build community partnerships that address barriers to care related to the social determinants of health; and provide essential psychosocial support services.

Through the Alliance, UK Markey Cancer Center will improve care coordination using digital tools to facilitate psychosocial screening, patient navigation, remote patient monitoring and patient and provider education in collaboration with patient advocates and community partners.

“These efforts will address some of the social determinants of health that lead to significant disparities in cancer outcomes in Kentucky,” said project lead researcher Timothy Mullett, MD, professor of cardiothoracic surgery and chief medical officer of UK Markey Cancer Center Affiliate. and research networks.

“One of the biggest challenges facing patients in rural communities is the distance to quality cancer care,” Mullett said. “Technology connecting rural patients to the resources and expertise they need is just one strategy that can increase equity and access to cancer care in Kentucky and beyond.”

The Markey Project is co-led by Ming-Yuan Chih, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Health Sciences, and Pamela Hull, Ph.D., associate professor in the College of Medicine and associate director of the Markey Cancer Center population science and community impact.

“The gravity of the need for action to advance equity in cancer care cannot be overstated and will not be overlooked,” said Carmen Villar, CEO of Merck Foundation. “We must act urgently and work together to provide all people with cancer with access to high quality care and treatment. The creation of the Alliance is an important step in ensuring that the social determinants of health no longer influence an individual’s ability to receive lifesaving health care.

In addition to the UK’s Markey Cancer Center, recipients of the Alliance program include Boston Medical Center; Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, Case Western Reserve University; beat cancer®, the ASCO Foundation; Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and RWJBarnabas Health.

Merck Foundation is also supporting a National Program Office at Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), in partnership with VCU Center on Health Disparities, which will support Alliance Program grantees to partner with community organizations and provide technical assistance to support their programs. The national program office will also evaluate the effectiveness of Alliance programs and identify and promote best practices that can improve the delivery of cancer care in the United States.

Grantees of the Alliance Program will meet regularly with the National Program Office to discuss learnings, share ideas, and explore concrete actions to support the delivery of equitable cancer care within their local communities and beyond.

About Merck Foundation

Merck Foundation is a private charitable foundation based in the United States. Established in 1957 by Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company, the Foundation is fully funded by the company and is Merck’s primary source of funding for qualified nonprofit charities. Since its inception, Merck Foundation has contributed nearly $1 billion to support important initiatives that address critical global health and societal needs that are in line with Merck’s purpose: to save and improve lives globally. . For more information, visit

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