These researchers have dedicated their careers to finding new treatments and cures for people with cancer.
Using a 2019 Global Young Investigator Award GO (YIA), Dr. Elysia Alvarez addresses care disparities facing adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients with cancer. She's working to build a clearer set of guidelines to help oncologists connect AYA patients with the best care possible.
AYA patients have historically been underrepresented* in cancer research and care.
Many Latin American countries have implemented cancer control programs designed for adults and younger children, but there is no clear model of care for AYA patients. Some AYA patients with cancer are treated at specialized cancer centers, while others receive care at general hospitals. In some cases, age restrictions determine which patients can be treated at different types of hospitals.
“The reasons for differences in AYA cancer care locations are likely multifactorial ... often influenced by sociodemographic factors,” says Dr. Alvarez, assistant professor of pediatric hematology/oncology at the University of California Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Dr. Alvarez and her team are using the GO YIA grant to conduct surveys and interviews with oncologists and hematologists across Mexico and Central America to better understand what causes AYA patients in Latin American countries to discontinue treatment, lack access to treatment, or not seek care altogether.
“It is critical that these patients have equitable access to the best possible cancer care, regardless of socioeconomic status, geographical location, race or ethnicity,” says Dr. Alvarez.
Through the surveys and interviews conducted, Dr. Alvarez found significant overlap in the challenges many oncologists in Latin American countries see patients experience, from financial hardships to hospital age-restrictions and limited age-appropriate care resources. The next steps in Dr. Alvarez’s research will focus on expanding access to treatment for AYA patients and increasing the number of patients who complete their full course of care.
“This research has laid the foundation for developing models of clinical care that can be implemented in Latin America to improve outcomes for AYA patients with cancer,” says Dr. Alvarez.