Keck School researcher wins grant to study cancer disparity among young adult-adolescent patients

Myles Cockburn hopes to understand why survival rates for adolescent and young adult cancer patients are lagging.

By USC Health Sciences Public Relations and Marketing

Despite improvements in outcomes for children and older adults with cancer over the past 30 years, survival among adolescent and young adult cancer patients has lagged significantly. A Keck School of Medicine researcher has won a grant to understand this disparity with the assistance of the USC Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA@USC) cancer program.

Myles Cockburn, associate professor in preventive medicine, won a more than $69,000 grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research. AYA@USC also has provided $47,000 in funding for the research.

Reasons that adolescent and young adults patients (age range 15 – 39) have a lower survival rate include a number of factors such as differences in tumor biology, insurance coverage and whether they adhere to a treatment protocol. Cockburn hopes to collect detailed information about factors influencing the survival of this patient population that will help doctors close the gap.

“Our research can provide detailed information to clinicians and healthcare providers in Los Angeles and statewide to allow them to target much needed prevention and care to AYA cancer sufferers,” said Cockburn said. “We hope this work will be only the beginning of a truly multidisciplinary effort to get AYA cancer patients the care they need, and reduce pain and suffering among our young adults.”

AYA@USC is a collaborative program with Keck School-affiliated Children's Hospital Los Angeles and is especially for patients ages 15 - 39. Cancer is a leading cause of death for this age group, with more than 70,000 diagnosed with cancer each year, 4,000 of whom are in the Los Angeles basin. The program, which is still being developed, will feature tailored clinical programs and expanded social services.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation since 2005 has awarded more than $101 million to support research for childhood cancers.

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