ralph lauren uk Cancer Center to Be Establishes in Harlem
In one of the most expansive collaborations between a major medical center and a New York community hospital, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center will help establish a cancer prevention and treatment center at the North General Hospital in Harlem, executives at both centers said yesterday.
The center will be known as the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention and Care, reflecting a $5 million gift from the fashion designer’s company.
The creation of the center, which is expected to be announced today, springs in part from years of research demonstrating large disparities between blacks and whites in cancer detection and survival rates, as well as Mr. Lauren’s interest in breast cancer philanthropy.
The center also reflects a subtle but significant shift in the role that Sloan Kettering, now under the leadership of Dr. Harold Varmus, plays in areas where most people lack access to basic care, let alone the cutting edge research and high profile doctors for which Sloan Kettering is internationally known.
The center is also an outgrowth of the relationship between Sloan Kettering and Dr. Harold P. Freeman, now president of North General.
Dr. Freeman was a founder and medical director of Sloan Kettering’s Breast Examination Center of Harlem, which was set up 20 years ago with the New York State Department of Health to try to lower the rates of late stage breast cancer among black women.
Dr. Freeman and Dr. Varmus decided that the hospital could reach more people in Harlem with a center that could diagnose other forms of cancer and provide treatment rather than referring patients elsewhere; patients often fail to follow up on referrals. The Ralph Lauren center, which is to open late this year, will provide screening and diagnostic tests for breast, prostate, colon and cervical cancers.
Many of Sloan Kettering’s most prominent doctors will help oversee the development of the center, and patients whose cancers are diagnosed there may be referred to Sloan Kettering for drug trials or other treatments, something that many Harlem patients can ill afford and know little about.
The move may reflect Dr. Varmus’s interest in applying more of the hospital’s research toward clinical care for a broader swath of patients.
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Easy access to good care is crucial to early diagnoses of cancer, both doctors said. Late detection is the No. 1 reason that people die from treatable forms of cancer,
and studies have shown that many forms of cancer are detected later in blacks than in whites.
For instance, in a 20 year study of more than 700 women in Harlem that ended in 1986, only 30 percent had survived breast cancer five years after diagnosis, compared with national rates closer to 65 percent, Dr. Freeman said. Looked at another way, the study found that only 6 percent of the women had early stage, or the most treatable, cancers. Since the center’s inception, that rate has risen to 40 percent, Dr. Freeman said.
Also, a study reported last year in the New England Journal of Medicine found that blacks were less likely than whites to have surgery for early stage lung cancer and were thus more likely to die from it.
”In this community, 41 percent of the people are poor,” Dr. Freeman said. ”And poverty causes a set of complex human circumstances that lead to late diagnoses. But there are things we can do to confront those conditions by creating easy access to care and smooth systems without barriers to treatment. We have found that when you offer certain conditions to people, they tend to be compliant.”
Mr. Lauren was an early financial supporter of programs for breast cancer.
He also started a campaign called ”Fashion Targets Breast Cancer” and was recently introduced to Dr. Freeman. ”I wanted to do more,” Mr. Lauren said in an interview. ”Dr. Freeman really impressed me. He made me aware of a lot of things I was not aware of in Harlem.”
Mr. Lauren said that recent reports of a mammogram center in the Bronx where the state said hundreds of faulty tests were performed had furthered his interest. ”That was really scary,” he said.
Part of what attracted Mr. Lauren to the project was that the center will educate patients about their treatment. Mr. Lauren, who battled with a benign brain tumor 12 years ago, said: ”I knew what it was like not to know which doctor to go to, and I was well known. ”My desire for my legacy is to do everything I can to help other people in this process, and if I can use my profile to do it,
I i am going to do it.”