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Dartmouth Receives $6.1M Women's Breast Cancer Grant

Five-year grant funds breast cancer screening research

Women in New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts will now benefit from optimized screening, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer, thanks to a five-year, $6.1 million National Cancer Institute (NCI) grant supporting a PROSPR (Population-based Research Optimizing Screening through Personalized Regimens) Breast Cancer Screening Center.

Focus article photo

Anna N.A. Tosteson, ScD (left), and Tracy Onega, PhD (right)

The PROSPR Center, founded jointly by researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center, The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and Brigham and Women's Hospital, is one of just three centers dedicated to breast cancer screening research in the United States funded by NCI. It will develop and evaluate systems-based approaches using the latest in health-information technology to improve the quality of care for women undergoing breast cancer screening.

The award was made just as Breast Cancer Awareness Month got underway in October. Working in partnership with health care providers in the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Regional Primary Care Center in New Hampshire and the Brigham & Women's Primary Care Practice-based Research Network in Massachusetts, researchers will develop and test new informational tools designed to help each individual woman understand how she may benefit from breast cancer screening. The Center will also develop tracking systems that are integrated with a patient's electronic health record to assist primary care providers in improving breast cancer screening outcomes for women who are cared for in their practices.

"We are very excited about the opportunity to undertake patient-centered comparative effectiveness research studies that will provide better information on breast cancer screening for women and their health care providers," said Anna Tosteson, ScD, Professor of Medicine, Community and Family Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School (DMS), Professor at The Dartmouth Institute, and one of the leaders of the Dartmouth PROSPR study. "Our Center will leverage the complementary expertise of our two academic medical centers and their affiliated regional primary care networks with different patient and practice characteristics. This collaboration allows us to create a Center that is significantly stronger than the component organizations. Our collaboration with other PROSPR Centers nationally will allow us to investigate how the latest breast cancer screening technologies are changing health and health care for women in the U.S."

Dr. Tosteson is joined on the study by Tracy Onega, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Community and Family Medicine and of The Dartmouth Institute at DMS, and Jennifer Haas, MD, MS, Associate Professor of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Both Dr. Tosteson and Dr. Onega are members of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

"The Center is an outgrowth of years of experience and insights obtained through the New Hampshire Mammography Network (NHMN)," commented Dr. Onega. "The Network's continuing collection of data helps gauge the impact of mammography on cancer detection, and the data gathered by the registry also helps with the evaluation of new mammography technologies. This will greatly help the PROSPR Center deliver the right test to the right patient at the right time." Since the late 1990s, NHMN has collected data on almost a million mammograms in New Hampshire.

"Every year, tens of thousands of women undergo breast cancer screening. While mammography and other methods of detection are extremely valuable, we also know they can result in false positives, unnecessary anxiety, and, in some cases, surgery, for these women," said Dr. James N. Weinstein, Director of The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, and President of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic. "The information we collect through this Center will help us evaluate and improve breast cancer screening for the benefit of all women, not just in Northern New England, but throughout the world."

October 24, 2011