Pfizer pumps $15M into American Cancer Society's screening-focused health equity push

Pfizer is backing the American Cancer Society’s (ACS') work to address disparities in oncology outcomes, providing $15 million over three years to boost efforts to connect people to no- and low-cost screening opportunities.

The ACS has identified limited access to quality healthcare in certain communities, including people of color and people living in rural areas, as barriers to its goal of “ending cancer as we know it.” In breast cancer, Black women are twice as likely to be diagnosed at a later stage and have a 40% higher mortality rate than white women. Black men are twice as likely to die from prostate cancer than white men.

Seeking to close the gaps, the ACS and Pfizer have partnered on “Change the Odds: Uniting to Improve Cancer Outcomes.” The new, three-year initiative is intended to “make a tangible, sustainable difference in communities that are disproportionately impacted by cancer, but medically underserved,” ACS CEO Karen Knudsen said in a Q&A published by Pfizer.

Knudsen said the ACS will “connect individuals and promote awareness of no- and low-cost screening opportunities” with a view to “[reaching] people where they are with these services and [linking] them to appropriate follow-up and support.” The $15 million from Pfizer will help “amplify our ongoing screening efforts and hopefully make a significant impact in these communities,” the ACS CEO added.

The partners are initially focusing on breast and prostate cancers “given their significant impact,” Knudsen said, but hope to expand the initiative to other tumor types over time. Pfizer made (PDF) $5.9 billion from its breast cancer drug Ibrance and prostate cancer medicine Xtandi last year, helping its total sales hit $58.5 billion, and is pursuing other opportunities in both settings.

As well as working to connect patients to screening, the partners plan to try to raise awareness of clinical trials and inform people about opportunities to participate. The focus reflects the underrepresentation of ethnic and racial minority groups in clinical research.