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Ron Foley Foundation Grant Will Study Biological Racial Disparity of Black Americans

The West Hartford-based Ron Foley Pancreatic Cancer Foundation has approved a grant for a study which they hope will facilitate a blood test for early detection to promote survival.


The Ron Foley Foundation recently approved a grant of $50,000 to Yale University, School of Medicine, for the study entitled “Epigenetic basis of racial disparity in African-American population for pancreas cancer.” Black Americans have the highest incidence rate of pancreatic cancer of all ethnic/racial groups.

The application was submitted by Anup Sharma, Ph.D., and Dr. Nita Ahuja, MD. Dr. Sharma is Senior Research Scientist, Department of Surgery, Yale University, New Haven, CT. Dr. Ahuja is Chair of Surgery at Yale University School of Medicine and Chief of Surgery at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Published data shows that pancreas cancer kills a disproportionately larger number of Black patients when compared to Whites. The project will research the biological basis for this disparity in mortality and will seek to explore the molecular basis for this biological difference, as well as to develop a potential blood-based test to facilitate early detection and promote survival.

“The Ron Foley Foundation is committed to supporting innovative research in the study of pancreatic cancer,” said Barbara Foley, the Foundation’s president. “It’s our hope that Dr. Sharma’s study will shed light on the differences in the cellular and genetic make-up of tumors in Blacks. These findings may lead to earlier detection and improved survival rates African-Americans and perhaps ultimately for all patients.”

Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that about 62,210 Americans will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and of those about 49,830 will die from this awful disease. Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers – 94% of patients will die within five years of diagnosis and only 10% will survive more than five years – and 74% of patients die within the first year of diagnosis.

The Foundation was founded in 2009 in memory of Ron Foley, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2005.  Barbara Foley, the Foundation’s President, and Ron’s widow leads this volunteer-based organization. Since 2009 the Foundation has raised more than $3 million to support its mission.

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