SPEECH Conference Highlights Multiplicity of Ongoing Efforts in Cancer Care Equity


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Young investigators, fellows, and medical students recently gathered at the Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to network and share exciting research aimed at addressing disparities in the dissemination of cancer care at the 5th Annual Regional Synergistic Partnership for Enhancing Equity in Cancer Health Conference and Retreat.

Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH

Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH

Young investigators, fellows, and medical students recently gathered at the Temple University Lewis Katz School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to network and share exciting research aimed at addressing disparities in the dissemination of cancer care at the 5th Annual Regional Synergistic Partnership for Enhancing Equity in Cancer Health (SPEECH) Conference and Retreat.1

“The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being,” Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH, the Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and the faculty co-chair of the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative in Boston, Massachusetts, said during conference’s keynote presentation. “I love that phrase—the highest attainable standard of health. Because what we're trying to do through this conference, through the SPEECH partnership, through all our efforts in cancer health disparities, and in public health, is help people reach their highest attainable standard.”

Koh previously served as the 14th Assistant Secretary for Health for the US Department of Health and Human Services from 2009 to 2014. In this role, he oversaw 12 core public health offices, 10 regional health offices, and 10 presidential and secretarial advisory committees.

The SPEECH conference kicked off on May 17 with steering committee meetings, which included remarks from institutional leaders, an overview of the SPEECH partnership, and a summary of ongoing projects. On May 18, the conference was open to the community, and included the keynote speech from Koh; poster presentations by students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty; a networking session; and a career development workshop for students and early-stage investigators.

SPEECH is a partnership between Temple University Fox Chase Cancer Center and Hunter College of the City University of New York in New York, to combat the cancer care–related health disparities that are experienced by historically underserved African American, Asian-Pacific American, and Hispanic American populations. The partnership is working to develop a regional comprehensive collaborative cancer health equity research infrastructure in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City, and support cancer research, education, and outreach programs at both Temple and Hunter College. The mission of the collaboration is, “…to reduce cancer health disparities among underserved health disparity populations and address critical national needs of career development in cancer research among underrepresented junior investigators and students.”2

“Our country is growing increasingly diverse,” Koh said. “We need to address that diversity for all the challenges and opportunities, we need to be committed to the health of all people. As Martin Luther King Jr once said, ‘We may have all come over on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.’ The key to this is working with the community.”

On October 30, 2018, the National Cancer Institute jointly awarded Lewis Katz School of Medicine and Hunter College a 5-year, $13.5 million U54 grant to underwrite the creation of SPEECH. The partnership was founded with a focus on multidisciplinary cancer research, diversifying the research and medical pipeline, and educating and engaging the community.3

The cores of the SPEECH partnership include efforts in administration, research, planning and evaluation, community outreach, and biostatistics and bioinformatics. Research projects are ongoing in the fields of liver, lung, and colon cancer. Other pre-pilot and pilot projects are also underway.

Following the poster presentation session on the second day of the conference, faculty judges honored exemplary posters in the undergraduate, graduate, early-stage investigator, and community/other categories.

The list of recipients is as follows:

  1. Undergraduate winners:
    1. Nisha Manahil, author of “Identifying factors responsible for sex disparities in melanoma progression”
    2. Mashhura Nurilloeva, author of “Rescuing the function of mutant pVHL in ccRCC”
  2. Graduate winners:
    1. Annie Fuller, author of “Eosinophilic esophagitis-associated epithelial remodeling may limit esophageal carcinogenesis”
    2. Jason Wasserman, author of “FAM122A ensures cell cycle interphase progression and checkpoint control as a slim-dependent substrate-competitive inhibitor to the B55⍺/PP2A phosphatase”
    3. Ruisa Lee, author of “MDM4/X in mutant p53 expressing breast cancer cells activates the CXCL12-CXCL4 metastasis cytokine signaling axis”
  3. Early-stage investigator honoree:
    1. Thoin Begum, PhD, author of “Healthcare providers' suggestions for screening Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) among ethnic minority communities”
  4. Community/other winner:
    1. Madeline Bono, author of “Tumor cell-intrinsic STAT2 promotes colorectal cancer independently of type I IFN receptor signaling”

The next planned event being hosted by the SPEECH partnership is the 2023 Summer Cancer Research Institute. The 8-week program, which runs from June 5 to July 28, is for students currently enrolled at Temple University or Hunter College who are interested in pursuing biomedical, clinical, and population-based cancer research. The Summer Cancer Research Institute will include research training; mentorship from established investigators, cancer seminars and skill-building workshops; and honing of written and oral science communication.4

“Because of the great efforts of SPEECH, and many other collaborations around the country, research in minority health has grown dramatically,” Koh said. “Now we're drilling down on data disaggregation, finding and analyzing specific data that can help us tailor interventions for specific ethnic communities, and, in doing so, helping all people reach their full potential of health.”


  1. SPEECH: Synergistic Partnership for Enhancing Equity in Cancer Health. Accessed May 22, 2023. http://www.speechregionalpartnership.org/
  2. About SPEECH. Accessed May 22, 2023. http://www.speechregionalpartnership.org/about/
  3. Temple University's Katz School of Medicine, Hunter College Awarded $13.5M NCI/NIH grant for cancer health disparities. October 30, 2018. Accessed May 22, 2023. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/temple-universitys-katz-school-of-medicine-hunter-college-awarded-13-5m-ncinih-grant-for-cancer-health-disparities-300740539.html
  4. Education/training opportunities. Accessed May 22, 2023. http://www.speechregionalpartnership.org/education-training-programs/education-training-opportunities/
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