Local News

Collaboration Between Duke, NCCU May Be Key To Solving Medical Mysteries

Posted October 24, 2005 11:15 a.m. EDT

— Heart disease, stroke and cancer are some of today's leading killer-diseases. However, African-Americans often top the list of those most at risk, but a new program may solve the problem.

Janelle Rowell is only in her second year at North Carolina Central University, but she already knows what she wants to do when she graduates. A 10-week summer internship at Duke's Comprehensive Cancer Center made it all clear for her.

"I really didn't have a good understanding of what my career goals were and this experience really opened my eyes," she said.

Rowell and three other N.C. Central students worked with Duke epidemiologists, thanks to a partnership between the two universities.

Blacks are among those most at risk for many diseases like cancer, yet only 2 percent of doctorate-trained researchers in the United States are African-American.

Dr. Patricia Moorman believes they should be among those to unlock some of the disease mysteries.

"We think that some of the health disparities may be due to biological or genetic differences, but we think there area also issues related to trust of the medical care system, access to care," she said.

Rowell's work at Duke focused on the role genes play in breast cancer among African-American women. If genetic testing could alert women that they are at greater risk, they could take special steps to prevent it.

Rowell would like to see more African-Americans involved in cancer research.

"I think it would make a big difference because we need to find out what causes disease," she said.

The Partners Allied In Research program between Duke, N.C. Central and the Lincoln Community Health Center in Durham is funded by the National Cancer Institute.