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Cancer Equity Colloquium: Q&A With Colin Weekes, MD, PhD

In This Article

  • Now more than ever, social inequities in healthcare are evident
  • The Cancer Equity Colloquium, co-directed by Colin Weekes, MD, PhD, and Brenda Lormil, MSN, FNP-C, of the Mass General Cancer Center, is a two-day hybrid event that will address the diverse issues that underlie cancer inequities
  • In this Q&A, Dr. Weekes discusses equity in cancer care and what makes the Cancer Equity Colloquium stand out

Now more than ever, social inequities in healthcare are evident. The Cancer Equity Colloquium, co-directed by Colin Weekes, MD, PhD, and Brenda Lormil, MSN, FNP-C, of the Mass General Cancer Center, is a two-day hybrid event that will address the diverse issues that underlie cancer inequities. In this Q&A, Dr. Weekes discusses equity in cancer care and what makes the Cancer Equity Colloquium stand out.

Q: How did the Cancer Equity Colloquium come to be?

Weekes: This is the second year of the colloquium, and it originated in response to both social justice activities and an interest in trying to address some of the issues that underlie cancer inequity.

For example, if you look at the outcomes of patients living in lower socioeconomic status, what you'll see is a consistent theme that patients who fit those roles tend to have more advanced disease at diagnosis and potentially worse outcomes. Work by Robert A. Winn, MD, director of Massey Cancer Institute, demonstrates a link between cancer outcomes and zip code of residence. Furthermore, these patients tend to have less access to the avant-garde approaches to cancer care, like the sequencing of their tumors and various detection techniques that we're using now to treat lung cancer, where we're looking at different genetic mutations and choosing therapy based on them.

There's also participation in clinical trials, a nationwide issue, especially for patients from disadvantaged inner-city or rural backgrounds. There are very strong data that if patients of diverse backgrounds are seen in an academic center and offered participation in a clinical trial, they enroll in clinical trials at the same rate as their white counterparts. My interpretation of this observation is that "we," the academic centers, need to do a better job of bringing the studies to the patients.

Q: What is the goal of the Colloquium, and who is eligible to attend?

Weekes: The goal of the Colloquium is to bring together individuals from healthcare, academia, the private/public business sector, and the public to develop unique approaches to tackling these inequities. We know that impactful initiatives to promote cancer equity require the skills and experiences of individuals from all these sectors of society. Attendees will have the opportunity to engage with each other and the Cancer Equity Colloquium faculty to develop novel partnerships.

Q: Can you highlight some of the sessions you're looking forward to?

Weekes: We have developed a program with a wide variety of session formats with diverse topics ranging from basic science to community efforts affecting cancer equity. I am grateful to all the faculty who have given their time to support this effort. The morning of day one will be led by Charles R. Thomas Jr., MD, discussing developing the next generation of scientists and healthcare professionals. The afternoon will highlight individuals sharing their personal experiences of cancer. The sessions on day two will focus on the intersection between academic cancer centers and their respective communities.

I'm also thrilled to welcome back Karen Winkfield, MD, PhD, as our keynote speaker. Dr Winkfield is the executive director of the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance, a strategic partnership between Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Her focus is tackling racism as it applies to cancer care and ways to improve diversity in the workforce.

Q: What do you envision for the future of the Cancer Equity Colloquium?

Weekes: The idea moving forward is that these events will become more topic-driven, perhaps focusing more deeply on rotating themes, like rural medicine or children with cancer. We also hope that we begin to create a network of individuals interested in cancer care from several different perspectives—including administrators, healthcare workers, lawyers, etc. It all goes back to this concept of training the next generation so that the number of people doing this work isn't so small.

Register for the 2023 Cancer Equity Colloquium

Learn more about the Mass General Cancer Center


Lung cancer screening is an extremely underused tool. Review the lung cancer screening guidelines with the American Lung Cancer Screening Initiative's founder, Chi-Fu Jeffrey Yang, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital.


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