Nursing researchers receive NIH grant to study colorectal cancer

Usha Menon, PhD, RN, FAAN, vice dean and professor at The Ohio State University College of Nursing, and Linda Larkey, PhD, professor at the Arizona State University College of Nursing and Health Innovation, have received a five-year, multi-site grant by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the dissemination of colorectal cancer screening education to underserved populations. Menon and Larkey, co-principal investigators, will conduct the study in collaboration with Laura Szalacha, EdD, research associate professor at the Ohio State College of Nursing and co-investigator.

The NIH grant, entitled “Navigation from Community to Clinic to promote CRC Screening in Underserved Populations” focused on the need for regular screenings to facilitate the early diagnosis of colorectal cancer (CRC), the second leading cause of cancer death, and contribute to the reduction of CRC morbidity and mortality rates. A recent trend to increase CRC screening test utilization is not mirrored in poor and minority populations. 

Colorectal cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps, or abnormal growths, in the colon or rectum. Screening tests can find precancerous polyps, so that they can be removed before they turn into cancer. Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best. 

In order to implement effective interventions targeting the underserved, the research team will merge and incorporate successful intervention strategies already tested by Menon and Larkey, including a tailored CRC screening education intervention in primary care clinics.  The team will also conduct a pilot study with un- or underinsured, low-income participants to determine if those navigated from the community setting into clinics receive higher rates of screening compared to those not receiving navigation. The purpose of this study is to test the effectiveness of a two-phase intervention using “community-to-clinic navigators” to guide individuals from an especially hard-to-reach, multicultural, and underinsured populations into primary care clinics and then to track the effects of intervention CRC screenings completed in clinics.

The proposed study meets several national health priorities, including the emphasis of NCI on reducing cancer-related disparities and the continued need to increase cost-effective CRC screenings to realize the full benefits of early detection.