The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Invests $3.8 Million to Advance Health Equity


LLS’s Equity in Access Research Program Awards Five New Grants to Researchers Across the U.S. Aiming to Break Down Barriers to Care for Blood Cancer Patients and Survivors

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) Equity in Access Research Program has awarded $3.8 million to researchers investigating ways to ensure that all patients with and survivors of a blood cancer achieve access to the cancer care and services they need throughout their lives, particularly for groups which data have shown experience more barriers than others in obtaining the right diagnosis and treatments.

Findings from these studies may ultimately lead to better health outcomes by identifying steps policymakers can take to increase equitable access to quality and affordable blood cancer care and reduce disparities. LLS will strive to transform these recommendations into state and federal policy proposals that its Office of Public Policy will work to implement.

"Disparities in cancer outcomes are often rooted in structural disadvantages or discrimination related to patients' racial or ethnic group, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, mental health, disability, sexual orientation, geographic location, or other factors which can be barriers to accessing healthcare for those with a blood cancer,” said Eric Cooks, PhD, Senior Director, Equity in Access Research Program at LLS. factors contributing to unequal access to care across the cancer care continuum—and to identify solutions we can urge lawmakers and those in the healthcare industry to adopt. Together, we want to put an end to these disparities."

Today, LLS is announcing the Equity in Access Research Program’s second cohort of award recipients — a group of outstanding health services researchers who have received $3.8 million in combined funding:

  • Jalpa Doshi, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, is leading research to determine if access barriers to oral anticancer medications (OAMs) are worse among vulnerable populations such as racial/ethnic minority patients. The aim of this study is to provide strategies for improved access to OAMs that can be enacted at the state and federal level.
  • Meng Li, Ph.D., ScM, and Christopher Flowers, M.D., M.S., of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, are spearheading research investigating how financial hardship affects quality of life and survival in patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). This work aims to determine what role insurance coverage plays in access to care, survival, and financial hardship among patients with NHL and to what extent insurance coverage influences racial disparities in access and outcomes. These findings may provide evidence that policymakers can use to guide insurance coverage policymaking to reduce disparities in access to care.
  • Lori Muffly, M.D., M.S., of Stanford University, Helen Parsons, Ph.D., MPH,of the University of Minnesota, and Theresa Keegan, Ph.D., M.S., of the University of California, Davis, will examine data from statewide population-based datasets from California, New York, and Texas to understand how specific insurance types held by adolescents and young adults with newly diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukemia influence access to specialized care. These findings can potentially inform policy efforts to promote access to specialized cancer care among this underserved population of blood cancer patients.
  • Oreofe Odejide, M.D., MPH, and Gregory Abel, M.D., MPH, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will evaluate data from a cohort of blood cancer patients receiving treatment at Dana Farber as well as a national research database to characterize the relationship between insurance status and type with end-of-life (EOL) care quality. Available research suggests blood cancer patients, especially those from racial and ethnic minority groups, are more likely to receive sub-optimal EOL care. Drs. Odejide and Abel will develop actionable recommendations to promote equity in access to high-quality EOL care, and their findings may provide evidence to guide policy interventions to expand high-quality EOL care.
  • Helen Parsons, Ph.D., MPH, of the University of Minnesota, Robin Yabroff, Ph.D., MBA, of the American Cancer Society, and Cathy Bradley, Ph.D.,of the University of Colorado School of Public Health, are exploring the relationship between insurance design and financial hardship due to rising care costs among blood cancer patients compared to those with solid tumors or no history of cancer. Additionally, the influence of financial hardship on the relationship between insurance design and treatment outcomes will be explored, while also evaluating potential geographic and racial/ethnic disparities. These findings may contribute to policy solutions related to insurance benefit design in individuals with blood cancer, including regulations for working-aged adults.

“LLS is building on the success of the program’s first group of award recipients,” said Cooks.we were able to more than double the award total from last year, thanks to the generosity of our donors.”

LLS proudly and gratefully acknowledges the leadership support of Royalty Pharma and the following companies for their support of the Equity in Access Research Program and other initiatives focused on reducing healthcare disparities in blood cancer care and treatment: AMGEN Oncology, Bristol Myers Squibb, GSK, and Takeda Oncology.

The Equity in Access Research Program is one of many efforts LLS spearheads as part of its steadfast and longstanding commitment to health equity. LLS staff and volunteers continue to advocate for changes in the law that minimize barriers to care for patients and promote equitable care. For example, after a decade of LLS advocacy, Congress passed an annual $2,000 cap on Medicare beneficiaries’ drug costs—limiting the costs facing 49 million patients. And we continue to work to ensure that everyone has access to clinical trials—including the 50% of children in the United States on Medicaid, including many children of color, and who often cannot access out-of-state clinical trials.

LLS has also released two Requests for Proposals (RFPs) for the Equity in Access Research Program, focused on how insurance affects access to care and strategies to increase clinical trial accrual and diversity. Researchers who may be interested in applying can find more information here.

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