Krystyna Barnard
March 9, 2020

Lucy Spalluto, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Radiology and Vice Chair of Health Equity, was recently awarded a $50,000 grant through the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) Donna and Frank Delfino Caring Hearts Fund for her study, “Breast cancer Risk Assessment: achieVing Equity in Breast cancer outcomes in the public health setting (BRAVE).” 

The award was established in 2018 by the Delfinos in honor of Ana Grau, MD, FACS, VICC Associate Professor of Surgery (Surgical Oncology), and her commitment to providing outstanding clinical care. Grants awarded through this fund support projects that assist underserved and socioeconomically disadvantaged patients. Funding for Dr. Spalluto’s project will be effective for one year beginning March 1, 2020. 

The goal of the BRAVE study is to reduce breast cancer disparities amongst young black women through implementation of a breast cancer risk assessment tool in the public health setting. Once implemented, the tool will be used to inform young women of their personal breast cancer risk so that providers can offer guideline-based early and supplemental screening for those considered high risk. 

“Young black women are two times more likely to die from breast cancer than young white women,” said Dr. Spalluto. “This is partially due to delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment, as well as the more aggressive types of breast cancer often seen in black women.” 

While risk assessment tools of this kind already exist, Dr. Spalluto says they are not regularly used for young women in the public health setting. The BRAVE team will partner with colleagues from Vanderbilt and the Nashville community to develop and evaluate appropriate methods to incorporate breast cancer risk assessment in the public health setting. 

Collaborators on the project include Vanderbilt colleagues, Drs. Tuya Pal, Pamela Hull, Sonya Reid and Katie Davis. Community partners Crissy Hartsfield, Director of the Tennessee Breast and Cervical Screening Program; and Katina Beard, Chief Executive Officer at the Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center, are also key stakeholders.  

“This award provides a tremendous opportunity to address racial and socioeconomic disparities in breast cancer in our community,” added Dr. Spalluto. “I am incredibly grateful to the Delfinos and the Caring Hearts Fund, and to Drs. Ana Grau and Ingrid Meszoely of the Surgical Oncology team, for this support. I look forward to working with our numerous community partners on this important study.”

Outcomes of the BRAVE study are expected to lay the foundation for ongoing research that will address racial/ethnic, geographic and socioeconomic disparities in breast cancer.